Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I saw a lot of people blogging and posting about how they spent their holiday weekend, so I decided to share my story. My wife and I went to a Gay Pride celebration. In addition to a few sweet little plot bunnies, I had had some other thoughts. At the parade, there were 185 floats plus more walking contingents than I could count. After watching for two and a half hours in the 90+ heat, we decided we'd rather be ashamed and cool in the hotel room than hot and proud on the street. We saw the rest on a cable news channel, with two hosts doing a their inane patter with so much enthusiasm that I felt like I was watching the Rose Bowl. A strange sensation stirred. This was pride.

It didn't stop there. Everywhere I looked there were signs of Pride celebration. The hotel lobby had rainbow flags and even a table display in the six colors to celebrate. Sears arranged its mannequins in same sex couples and made sure there were plenty of rainbow displays. A cookware store had its pots in a rainbow. That feeling welled up again. So what if they were after my money. They were standing with us.

I usually feel like an invisible lesbian. When I'm out with my wife, strangers talking to me refer to her as my sister or my friend. I correct them. I didn't have to. At breakfast our fun chatty waitress leaned in and said, "Happy Pride. Have a great time."

At the street festival, dozens of police kept the peace while draped with rainbow beads, laughing and chatting with people, posing for pictures with those in elaborate costumes. There were hundreds of booths hawking everything from dildoes and leather restraints to Jones soda, hot tubs, time shares and an opportunity for a law enforcement career or the opportunity to serve in the armed forces. Surprising, I know. Because I wasn't in the land of "liberty and justice for all" on the fourth of July, I was in Canada.

I grew up a fierce little patriot. I loved American history. In celebration of the bicentennial (yes, I'm that old), I had my bedroom done in red, white and blue, complete with a tricolored shag rug (I'll wait while you shudder in horror) and a stars and stripes sheet set. The site of the battle of Yorktown awed me as a fourteen year old. Yet on the day when we celebrate the signing of a document that begins "When in the course of human events" I had to find my pride, my sense of belonging, in another country.

Sure I could go to a Pride celebration closer to home. Like the one in Albany, NY where a guy was hospitalized afterward when three guys beat the crap out of him. The police are classifying it simple robbery. Who can forget last year's fun opening of the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth, TX where the thirtieth anniversary of Stonewall was celebrated by law enforcement coming into the bar to break some skulls?

As I celebrated the birth of modern gay revolution in another country, I thought about the younger me who believed so fiercely in the power of our history to give us forward momentum to an amazing future. She would have sworn that these words would have been spoken by an American in a debate on gay marriage, "We would risk becoming a country in which the defence of rights is weighed, calculated and debated based on electoral or other considerations." But she'd have been wrong. That was Prime Minister Bill Martin of Canada. I'm afraid he was talking about the "land of the free" to the south of him. I have to thank the governor of Hawaii for proving my point in demonstrating how unworthy of equality gay people like me are.

This summer, I plan to paint my office the same shade of deep blue I once had in my bedroom. (Don't worry. I'm skipping the shag rug. And the sheets.) I wish it was as easy to regain my sense of pride.


Chris said...

KA: Maybe you need to come to Twin Cities Pride in Minneapolis some year. On Saturday I went with a friend, for an hour or so. It was a bit discouraging, because there were some "abomination - you will rot in hell" protesters (with permits, so they were able to stay in the City park). By the time I left that day, the police had moved the little group of hate mongers inside the wrought iron fence of the horseshoe pits to protect them.

I went back on Sunday, mostly to see the parade. Church after church after church had units in the parade - my favorite was the one with the "All are welcome - and all means ALL" sign. It helped me put the hate mongers of the previous day out of my mind. And then wandering around the festival after that, not a hate monger in sight, with thousands of other people, both gay and not... everyone was happy and friendly and kind to each other... and I felt much more hopeful about the world.

K.A. Mitchell said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the invitation. I've been out that way once. I admire your bravery. The tornadoes scared me, though the deep fried cheese curds are almost worth the risk.

There were tons of church groups in the parade in Toronto, too. It's nice to see a reminder of the message of love.

I keep meaning to try out different celebrations. How much time we have always depends on what training my wife's employer decides she can't miss.

It is good to get a reminder that most people are happy and kind. Unfortunately, the judging people seem to be the ones who get to push their views on the rest of us more often than not. Every time I get up some hope, I'm surprised at how much hate gets let loose.

I should stick to playing in the fictional world where I know I'll get my HEA.


Chris said...

Fortunately tornadoes aren't that common - I've only been in one and I was three at the time.

And I know exactly what you mean, about it seeming as if the hate ends up outweighing the hope. :(

*goes to listen to Dar Williams sing "Better Things"*

Tam said...

So glad you had a good time in my country. My colleague next door is taking today off to recover from Pride. LOL He's looked like hell for 3 days. Guess he had a good time. I have another friend who went but he's comign to stay with me here this weekend so I'll have to grill him on how it was. He's young, he can take the heat unlike old ladies like me.

Our Pride festival is at the end of August in Ottawa. Weird I know but I guess you get more people if you spread them out. I went for the first time last year with my daughter. We had a fun time. The military marched, the public service gay group (gov't town), the "ladies" in their 4 inch heels the whole parade (I wince in sympathy), the leather boys, the Univ. Engineering boys, gay sports leagues, the various political parties, some just married ladies on their motorcycles and many others. I didn't get to the display areas as it was starting to rain and REALLY crowded but maybe this year.

We did have a couple of religious protesters show up where I was standing. A man with a HUGE cross and his partner. We thought fine, we'll just ignore them, then they pulled out the portable microphone and started trying to save us. The crowd started to get a bit rowdy but this was happening in front of our tourism office so one of the young ladies ran out onto the street to the motorcycle cop and spoke with him. He then pulled his motorcycle up on the sidewalk (to the cheers of the crowd) and basically told them they had to turn off the mic. They stood there the whole parade and we ignored them.

Anyway, if you ever want to head further north it's the last Sunday in August. I'm thinking I have to drive my daughter to camp this year so I might have to miss it. :-( We'll have to see. Oh and for deep-fried cheese curds I might have to make the trip to MN. ;-)

K.A. Mitchell said...

Hi Tam,

I love visiting your beautiful country. I saw some of the invites for Ottawa's Pride celebration while we were in Toronto. I've been to Ottawa once, but I was 10 and I mostly remember it was a really long drive from wherever we started, and there wasn't an amusement park. I'll have to go back now that I can appreciate it more.

Tam said...

There's still no amusement park, thank god. LOL

Keira Andrews said...

Glad you had such a wonderful time here in TO! Our Pride celebrations (and my city) really do fill me with pride. :)

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