Toronto just hosted World Pride Week 2014, and I’m feeling proud to be Canadian. Especially in Ontario, where not only have we just elected our first female premier, but she’s openly gay, and behaves as if it’s the norm. Now that’s leadership. And that’s progress. But we do need to keep a sharp eye on the opposition – those who are still ‘shocked and appalled’ and work steadily at resisting change.
But for the moment, I’ll indulge in the celebration, happy for my gay friends and relatives. I’ll block on sadness for the friends who didn’t make it to this day. This level of enlightenment might have saved their lives. It was an exciting week, a reminder of reasons for optimism. People came from all over the world for this Pride week and the biggest Pride Parade Toronto has ever seen*. Even my own daughter marched, representing the drop-in for people without homes, where she works.
The other night because of Pride Week, we enjoyed a panel discussion in one of Toronto’s trendy young neighbourhoods. The panelists were a bouquet of LGBT/’two-spirit’/’racialized’ experts. They were exploring historical and current issues from their varied perspectives on a somewhat academic level. At times though, I could have sworn I sensed a little “my oppression is worse than yours” message. Is that because we’ve come such a long way?
I found it interesting that virtually all the panelists expressed some negative feelings about Pride Week and its level of commercialism. Some also felt it creates a false optimism. I’m sympathetic to those concerns, yet events like Pride contribute so much to reducing fear of differences. As with most public celebrations, we are reminded of how much we humans have in common.
Over the decades, my own awareness of “gay” has expanded to include an apparently endless variety of sexual orientations and gender identities – a spectrum. And why not?. When we stop thinking in conventional paradigms like black-and-white, gay-or-straight, we begin to realize that’s all mythology, a story we tell ourselves. The human reality is an infinite rainbow of differences, with no such thing as “normal”.
It’s those very differences that make our lives richer – something to celebrate. Events like ‘Pride’ provoke world-changing conversations that wouldn’t happen without them, moving society forward. That’s part of their beauty. They are also a kind of ‘marker’ of the progress we’ve seen.
There is no other official celebration of differences, the way we celebrate the country, or Christmas, for example. And Toronto is a city of differences. Pride comes close to that – another reason to enjoy the party. And when it’s over, we carry on working for change – maybe with some brand new activists. Maybe spread the pride to more places where fear and terror now dominate.
Meanwhile, how sweet it is to watch my neighbour’s daughter strolling slowly down our shady street, hand in hand with her girlfriend. Unconcerned. That alone deserves a celebration.