The Stories that Make Pride

Vancouver Pride 2010

This weekend was Pride weekend in Vancouver, culminating in the parade on Sunday. I’ve gone every year I’ve been here, the last four parades, and it’s always a ton of fun.

In a place like Vancouver, where being queer doesn’t generally have nearly the same problems as in other parts of the world (despite several high profile gay bashings recently) the Pride Parade is no longer about fighting for our rights. Instead, it takes on the mantle of a celebration, for what we’ve achieved and our freedom to be who we are.

A good friend of mine puts it well on her blog:

I’ve kind of come to the conclusion this year that Pride is kind of a Queer New Year. You go out and party, reconnect with friends, and make all kinds of resolutions about how you’re going to be a way better queer between tomorrow and next Pride. That’s what I do anyway, or at least seem to have been doing for the last couple years.

…I like the New Year’s corollary; it treats Pride as both a celebration and an opportunity for betterment. If everyone came into it every year taking stock of where they are in their personal journey and where the community as a whole is in addition to which parties they’re going to hit, it would create an incredible opportunity to recapture the consciousness raising efforts of the 1960s.

This year was a bit different for me from previous years. The last few weeks have seen my life go off on a bit of a whirlwind adventure, so I didn’t come into this weekend with quite the same anticipation — I didn’t have time to anticipate. And for the first time, I celebrated Pride with a significant other. I got to meet Blake Skjellerup in person, which was cool (click here for that backstory) — it’s great that we can host people like that, people the community can look up to.

Lucas and olympian Blake Skjellerup

In general, I still had a blast, and it did force me to stop my whirlwind life for a moment and reflect.

But one of the things that struck me most this year, I think, was Saturday night, with my aforementioned friend, Emma.

Last year, I had a few people over on the night before the parade for a Pride party, and it was such a success that I decided it should be an annual thing. It’s just a small house party, 5-10 of my closest friends (I’m the kind of guy that prefers small, intimate parties to huge bashes or clubbing), and an abundance of alcohol: one of the now-established traditions of this party is to make rainbow-coloured vodka by dissolving skittles into it, and then doing a series of rainbow shots, toasting something different for each.

It’s not a huge party, but it’s with my closest Pride-related friends, and the free flowing of alcohol means that we tend to have some really good, intimate, soul-searching conversations. Which is where Emma comes in.

Emma wasn’t born Emma. She’s a transwoman lesbian, and she’s only started her transition to being Emma recently. Last night, all four of us good and liquored (especially her), she talked a bit about her experience, her own self-discovery.

If you think being a gay man is hard, try being transgendered.

I’ve heard that even in places like New York and Toronto, which feature some of the biggest parades in North America, there’s still a lot of segregation — like Pride is for the gay men first and foremost. But Vancouver embraces every stripe of the rainbow, every letter in the ever-growing acronym. And thank everything for that.

There’s an interesting dynamic in the queer community, wherein the gay men tend to be the most prominent, influential members. As Emma points out:

It seems as if there’s a lot of growing pains in the established large scale events in North America from uneasiness about the ever expanding corporate sponsorship after the “Pink Dollar” to the schism developing between the cisgender male homosexual population and the rest of the queer community. It’s even really just two facets of the same problem that arises from how the gender and class structure in North America works. The “Pink Dollar” only exists because cisgender homosexual men generally have the same opportunities and income level of their heterosexual counterparts but are left with far more disposable income because they generally have fewer or no dependents while the lesbian and transgender demographics generally belong to lower income brackets. […] a lot of us are very cognizant that we rely on the goodwill and support- both moral and financial- of the cisgender homosexual male portion of the community. It’s an imbalance thrust on the community by the outside world; the patriarchy if you will. However we can’t simply all come together every year, party hard, and then disappear back into our various circles. We have to work hard to not just talk big about making Pride into something bigger than a party, but treat the entire institution as a time to come together at every level, in every way.

And, just like I want to be able to give all the support I can to young gay boys struggling with their identity, I also feel like I need to give all the support I can to all the other members of my community. Because all we have is each other. And I couldn’t be happier than doing so.

Emma came early for us to start making the rainbow vodka, and we decided that we needed more vodka. So we went out to the nearest liquor store to get some.

That night was the first time I’d seen her presenting as female. And we were going to walk down the street and go into a liquor store to buy booze.

I was wearing purple and white and a rainbow tie. A few years ago, I would have felt uncomfortable, even worried, to walk down the street like that.

That night, my focus was entirely for Emma. I was prepared to step into any situation that might arise to protect her.

Apparently someone in the store did say something stupid to friends (like, “is that a dude or a girl?”) but there was no incident. I was still on guard, but living in Vancouver does have its perks. We came home and made our rainbow.

Emma’s a brave woman, and I admire her. She’s also a fantastic writer, so go check her out.

I’m just glad that Pride gave her the opportunity to do it, to really put herself out there. Pride is about celebration, but it’s also about visibility. It’s about visibility to the rest of the world — we’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going anywhere, so get used to us.

But it’s also about visibility to ourselves — the ability for us to dress however we want, act however we want, really — for at least this one day — figure out who we really are and be that person, without fear, without hesitation.

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  1. Pingback: In Solidarity « Words and Things

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