Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Thoughts on Walking in the World Pride March

Last Sunday, Toronto wrapped up a successful week hosting the World Pride celebrations with a huge Pride parade. The annual Gay Pride celebrations in Toronto traditionally kick off the summer season. This year, the whole world came to celebrate with our city. Under the sun, under a rain shower, under a rainbow that appeared in the sky above the rainbow city, we marched Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and straight together.

Allison and I belong to an affirming church, and when we walk in the parade, we marched with the Proud Anglicans, a group of affirming churches in the Toronto area.

When Allison and I march, we march first and foremost as allies. Gay Pride is an expression of Gay and Lesbian culture: we go to support our gay friends and neighbours, the people we work, worship and learn with. But as with many things, it isn't quite that simple. Yes, in one sense, for us Gay Pride is someone else's parade. But in another sense, it is ours, too.

I started high school in 1970. A high school in a small Ontario city in 1970 was not an outstandingly friendly place for anyone. For my Gay and Lesbian friends at the time, it took spectacular courage go to school at all. As someone on the autism spectrum, I did not have a very easy ride either. My school mates did not have a sophisticated analysis of gender. I can attest that some had on the vaguest idea what "Gay" or "Lesbian" entailed. They used homophobic slurs to cope with any nonconformity, and I didn't conform. I remember more than a few occasions when I walked home from school with "Freddy F-----" ringing in my ears.

It's important to remember who Pride is primarily for, and why. Whatever the difficulties people on the autism spectrum have to deal with, no country has a "anti-autism" bill with penalties for family members who don't turn in people with autism. But the Pride celebrations have a larger message: everyone has the right to celebrate the way they are made. Each one of us is a magnificent, awesome creation, each one of us was made to love and be loved. And in this larger sense, as an affirmation of the dignity of each of us, the Pride Parade is my parade as well.

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