The ebb and flow of Pride

by Lucian Childs

I haven’t been excited about a Gay Pride parade in years.

When I moved to San Francisco in the 1980s, I never missed a single one. I’d been living in Austin, Texas prior to that and, as wonderful as Austin was (and is), it couldn’t match the freedom and community I found as a gay man in San Francisco.

After four or five years, though, the luster had worn off. The parade seemed interminable: waves of gay bowlers, gay square dancers, gay Buddhists, gay accountants—you name it. After a while, my friends and I stopped going.

Fast forward fifteen years to Anchorage. Pride on the Parkstrip was small, but I loved the hometown feel. Miraculously, the weather seemed almost always to be good.  My new friends and I would make a day of it: parade, then parkstrip, then lunch at Humpy’s or someplace downtown. We’d go home happy.

Again, after a while I found I’d rather be at a friend’s cabin or on top of Bird Ridge. Both, I told myself, were also acts of gay pride.

This year was different. After twenty-five years in Alaska, I’m a new Canadian. Well, I’ve only gotten Permanent Residency status now, but after nine years back and forth between Anchorage and Toronto, and having been married to a Torontonian for almost two years, I feel partially Canadian. A Canamerican, if you will. So to find out what the fuss was about, I found myself once again along the route of a big city Pride parade.

All of Toronto has embraced Pride. There were families pushing strollers, the elderly and bevies of teenagers. Gone (mostly) were the floats teeming with muscular men. In their place were civil servants, bank, airline and telecom employees, volunteers at social service agencies, contingents from the city’s many ethnic groups, the Premier of Ontario, and Toronto’s mayor and our Prime Minister, superstar Justin Trudeau. Plus row after row of cops—decked out in rainbow colors—from Toronto and outlying municipalities. In other times, it might have felt like an occupation. But as a marker of how far law enforcement in this city has come in relation to the LGBTQ community, I found it touching. As they and the groups that followed marched by, tears welled up in my eyes. So much pride for, not only the LGBTQ community, but for Toronto, a city that has wholeheartedly embraced immigration and diversity. I was also touched by the moment of silence beginning the parade for those who perished in Orlando and by the contingent that carried placards bearing their names.

So next year, will I go to Pride—either in Toronto or in my other home, Anchorage? We’ll see. Pride is internal, but sometimes it’s good to share it with a few friends.