I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a happy accident.
A month before I left for Toronto, I was playing softball with the fine folks in UM’s physics department. While sharing my summer plans, one of them interjected.
“Toronto? That’s where World Pride is being held this year!”
I couldn’t believe it. World Pride, the largest celebration of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people has only occurred four times in history: in Rome (2000), in (2006), in London (2012), and this year in Toronto. LGBTQ rights are very close to my heart, and I was shocked to find that two million people would soon flock the streets of Toronto in rainbows and glitter.
The first event I went to was a skit performed by a group of young actors depicting he hardships of being a young LGBTQ person. It took place at Toronto’s famous Buddies in Bad Times, a bar and theatre that have been around for thirty years (unheard of for a bar! Most close before they’re a decade old. This alone shows the importance of Buddies in its community). It was a fantastic show. The struggles of a transgender girl whose parents insist she dress like a boy, the friction between a daughter and her father when he left their family for a man, and the confusions of lesbians who like to dress rougher and boys who like to wear lace were all depicted fantastically. It was easily one of my favorite parts of Pride.
And all that before opening ceremony.
To start the ten-day celebration, Toronto brought in Melissa Etheridge, famous among the older crowd for being an iconic rock artist of the early nineties and a proud supporter of LGBTQ rights. She led a fantastic concert, ending the night with the biggest firework and laser show I had ever seen. Throughout the week there were many smaller events that I couldn’t make because of my work in the lab: a dyke march, a transgender march, a vigil for those who have suffered from AIDS, and a conference held by the Human Rights Council (check???). However I wasn’t too down about not attending those, because the real party was the last weekend.
It was the biggest crowd of people if ever swam through. Church Street, famous for having the highest concentration of gay bars in the city, was closed down during the entire celebration. Drag performances, where men become their prettiest and their hair becomes the biggest, were happening on stages all along Church no matter what time of day. The first performance I saw had not only good music and a beautiful costume, but the performer also threw in fire breathing. Many others included a performance themed after the popular fantasy series A Game of Thrones, multiple performances to the song I Feel Like A Woman, and even a performance where the dance was a traditional Indian dance. I’ve seen so few drag performances that I was amazed when I saw one based in a difference culture!
On the last day they closed down Yonge street, the most famous street in Canada and the heart of Toronto’s downtown, and held the World Pride Parade. This is when everyone brought every rainbow coloured object they owned and danced in the streets. It was a hot day, and everyone got hit with water guns from the passing floats. Kids were on the sides of the streets selling rainbow flags and pre-cut mangos. I eventually climbed on top of a bike rack to get the best pictures I could. I must have watched the parade for three hours and still didn’t see the end of it.
The night ended with a concert by Canada’s most famous lesbians, Tegan and Sara. They reminded the crowd that in Canada, and soon the rest of the world, it’s okay to be gay.