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::glitter in my eyes::

At the end of the parade route this year, marshals sent the vehicles off in one direction, and the marchers off in another. I went with the marchers, having been told I could join back in with the vehicle “just around the corner”. “Just around the corner” turned out to be several blocks further away than I had expected, and I had a powerdrill and a take-down job to do, so I moved the fence apart, thrust my bicycle through and followed.
“Hey!”, a fairly large cop yelled, “That fence is there to keep people out!”
“But I need to get in” I shouted, and kept going. The cop fumbled for a minute, looking at the still open gap in the fence, and then me, and then he went to the fence. Better to close it now, and have it be just me in the wrong place, than to go after me and have a stream of people.

What’s pride without a little police defiance?

I first marched in the parade in the 90s – at the time I did not write down the year because it did not seem important – now I wish I had. We called it a march then, not a parade, and there was nothing separating the crowds on the street from the crowds on the side walk. I had not planned on marching, but it looked like more fun than watching, so after kissing a marcher, I jumped in, and we marched south together. Yonge St. was a tunnel of love, cheering screaming people on all sides, all the way to College where our people delivered us into the latex gloved hands of the police.

There was a wall of cops blocking the street, like on our own we might not remember to turn left (we’re fucking queer, we have to turn left) and they all wore latex gloves. Those gloves made us all poz. I did not feel served or protected. Not then, and not now. At the same time, gloves. We were working hard to make gloves sexy, to see them as hot, to practice thrusting and loving with them on. We all knew what to do with a dental dam, although no one bothered, but gloves, gloves were for fucking, and then these gloves were there in fear and in judgement. Fuck them. We got close to them, blew them kisses as they awkwardly stood there, and then we turned left, back to the party, back amongst ourselves, back to drinking and dancing and looking for places to fuck. Cops taught me that to be queer was to be diseased, not human enough to touch, and I’ve not forgotten, nor forgiven them either. I also know that this is not a lesson that they stopped teaching in the 90s – now they just like to do it in smaller sessions, tutoring people privately, more violence, fewer witnesses.

Now the cops are in the damn parade.

This year an OPP officer tried to give my three-year-old an OPP crest temporary tattoo. He returned it to her saying “I’m not old enough to get a tattoo yet.” The people who donned gloves to avoid the danger of my skin want to brand the skin of my child. Not on my watch. The police don’t remember, in the way they institutionally and conveniently forget so many violences they have committed. Wearing a rainbow lei over the uniform today will not mean transpeople get appropriate treatment this afternoon, let alone any other day. The “Pride in Corrections” bus left me cold – I note they rented a coach for the day as presumably they know that those fucking paddy wagons become ovens in this heat. Their own tools, not good enough for them. Just for us.


Again, some time in the 90s, I remember marching and shouting “Whose Pride? Our Pride!”. It might have been at the first Dyke March in 1996, it might have been somewhere else. We don’t shout that anymore, perhaps because we can not be heard over the roar of the giant speakers on the back of corporate floats. Perhaps because we are no longer sure whose Pride this is. Now I imagine that there must be a bidding war between the major banks to see who will have the honour of having the buffest pretty boys on their floats wearing tiny matching swimwear, just big enough to display the bank’s colours.

In 1995 I bought a house with my family. We were a triad, a man, a woman, and me. They were married, but with no official way to add me to the relationship, a mortgage felt as legal as we could get. The man had a broken credit history, so the woman and I were listed as the holders of the mortgage, which made us paper lesbians, even as we drafted an ownership agreement that made at least two of us look like bisexuals. The three of us did extensive research on mortgage rates, and financial policy. In the end we were offered mortgages by two credit unions, no banks being willing to lend money to a household of three queers. The idea that we were all moving from one one-and-a-half bedroom house to another we would own in common alarmed a number of the bankers we talked to.

We use to decry this kind of discrimination – we demanded our relationships be recognised, we demanded that we deserved access to services. And in a way that would have surprized me then, we’ve been listened to. And the same banks that did not want our pink mortgage now show up to Pride to woo our dollars. They make bank advertisements that show happy homo couples (always couples, still no triads) on their green furniture saving for vacations, opening joint checking accounts, and getting mortgages. We told them we existed, we told them they were missing out on our business, and they smelt money and started paying attention. In 2009, TD Bank became Pride Toronto’s “Premier Sponsor”, and promptly wanted to meet with the Executive Director of Pride specifically about who would be allowed to march in the parade. “Whose Pride?” - not our Pride anymore.


The straight guys with cameras have always been there in my memory. I remember at an early Pride, marching in a chest harness and cut-off shorts and having one of the tourists get too close. We turned on him. A growing group of us took pictures of him until he turned and left. But it feels more and more straight. More and more opposite-sex couples marching hand in hand, more overheard conversations between men about how many women they have hit on at the festival, this year a straight-identified trans dj cheerfully playing misogynist music. Facebook and Twitter stream with complaints of queer women about men with cameras, men demanding they smile, non-consensual touching. I know, not all the transpeople are LGBQ, and for those straight people this has always been their festival. This is not about them. I understand that for many straight people the idea of sexual freedom is appealing, but if it is not consensual it’s not sexual freedom - it’s just more misogyny, heterosexism and plain old sexism. It’s also assault. I want to say that it is getting less and less safe, but I also know that for some bodies Pride has never been safe – and I wonder, how many of us need to feel unsafe before we take action. I wonder whose bodies matter, and at the moment it feels like the straight ones, again, and still.

But the individual actions mirror some of the larger cultural flirting. We are like you, we are not like you. Notice us! Let us just do our thing. The relationships between queer cultures and trans cultures feels all in flux. If we are dancing no one is leading, and my toes just got stepped on again.

It’s six pm on the Sunday of Pride weekend, and I’m finally done working the festival. My husband still has two hours of hosting a stage to go, but we are getting close to both of us being through working. At eight we head over to the Wellesley stage, and skip the line to get in. He picked-up an extra three hours of stage hosting at the very last minute and part of his “Thank you for bailing out my sorry ass” package included VIP access to the main stages. We are up close to the stage, and there is comfortable furniture and snacks are served. Some of the people we know are here, and some of the people we know are still working, but there are an awful lot of people we don’t know. There are again pretty boys in matching linen pants posing with tourists, and bank executives, and other people who gave money to the festival. Some VIP status has been earned through service, but most has been bought with corporate dollars. We create our own VIP system, based on hours of volunteer community service and smuggle out our passes, hang them on other necks and smuggle people in. We are smuggling people from our community into our festival through the back door.


This morning, after Pride, still a little glittery, I’m revisiting the conversations I started at Pride in the 90s. Be careful what you wish for feels like my theme of the weekend, but it does not stop me from the business of wishing, or of wish fulfilment. But I am trying to think through my wishes, and all their implications, trying to remember that whole plans are needed, not just initial demands, always clear new wishes are needed.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
8th Jul, 2013 19:25 (UTC)
j, thanks for posting this thoughtful piece. Being on the periphery of the queer community i wondered at these things I thought I was seeing, feeling. You've helped me make some sense or at least jumping off points for making sense and making decisions. I have become less and less comfortable at Pride and in the last few years have attended less and less Pride related events. I try to go out and support the community throughout the year: queer grass roots arts, theatre, music and youth serving groups are the places I put my time, energy and a few bucks. I will continue to struggle with corporate Pride and make my way, with others...

Be careful what we wish for indeed.

9th Jul, 2013 02:26 (UTC)
Even CSIS has a booth at Pride now (despite refusing to hire my ex because he was "excessively gay").
9th Jul, 2013 04:06 (UTC)
Thank you.
9th Jul, 2013 14:15 (UTC)
(Standing ovation)
10th Jul, 2013 03:57 (UTC)
I noticed the changes this year here in SF, at the Dyke March, especially. Hope you can hold on to a little glitter. I still see the raw and grit and politics underneath, but every year it feels a little more buried.

Edited at 2013-07-10 04:04 (UTC)
Steph Lovelady
13th Sep, 2013 00:59 (UTC)
I understand where you are coming from, but I do think more societal acceptance is a good thing, even if it makes Pride a bit more bland/corporate. The police offer who offered the tattoo may not have even been on the force when the others were wearing gloves and may think quite differently.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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