Pride is an interesting time of year. On the outside it looks like one big, gay party. There’s a very colourful parade, people in costumes, and gay clubs suddenly have such long lines you’d think they were giving out free food. With all the festivities it’s easy to view Pride as a very simple celebration of all things that fall under the rainbow umbrella. In reality though, Pride is so much more than that.
In the interests of being truthful, I was one of those people who saw Pride this way. I always thought Pride was a week-long excuse for anyone that falls under the all-inclusive label of LGBTQ to go out and just go crazy for a week. I knew that there was more to Gay Pride Week than just the parade and the parties, but I had never really considered it be that important to go out and celebrate my sexuality with my fellow homosexuals. It wasn’t until I went to the Edmonton Gay Pride Parade that I finally realized what I had been missing out on all this time.
Coming from small town rural Alberta my expression of my homosexuality has always been limited. Since I spent most of my high school years attempting to repress the over-bubbling pot that was my already evident sexuality I had always viewed Pride with a mixture of curiosity and fear. To me the idea of a man holding hands with another man in public was a foreign concept, let alone a whole week celebrating it. Back then I couldn’t even imagine going to an event and displaying myself so openly and truthfully like that. The closest city was Calgary and I always read the summary of what was happening in Calgary’s Gay Pride Week, constantly looking up to make sure that I could quickly switch to something else, god forbid anyone catch me reading up on the gay happenings. Being so uncomfortable with myself it was hard to imagine a celebration for people who felt so comfortable. In those days I viewed Pride as this sort of mystical place that was interesting but one I would most-likely never go to.
When I eventually moved to Edmonton and began the arduous coming out process, Pride still never seemed like a concrete concept. Sure I was becoming more comfortable with myself and had less and less of a problem expressing who I am, but participating in a week-long celebration still seemed like a daunting task. Pride simply never fit into my schedule and I never made any attempt to make it fit. So it wasn’t until this year when I finally had the chance to participate in the festivities that I got excited. I would actually attend a Gay Pride event. I nervously invited everyone I knew and after much negotiation and bargaining I finally convinced my best friend Sara, her cousin, and her cousin’s two small children to go with me.
By the time we made it to the parade I was elated to be taking part in my first Pride event. The parade began and I practically jumped for joy, the only thing slowing me down being a two-and-a-half-year-old on my shoulders who needed a vantage point that only I could provide. Seeing all these people marching, showing themselves off to the world, and getting all this support was truly amazing.
After the parade I took in the sights and sounds of all the activities in Churchill Square and got to be a part of my first ever Gay Pride event at last. As the day progressed I started to feel something that I couldn’t quite put into words. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon when I was trying to negotiate with my friend as to why I should go out and celebrate that evening that I finally realized what it was. I felt truly and 100% accepted.
That’s not to say that Edmonton isn’t a wonderful and inclusive city, but this was different. Looking around and seeing everyone dancing and laughing and expressing themselves I felt that this was a place that I could have fun and fit in and not feel different in any way. Pride is a time of year when anyone who falls under the LGBTQ can ban together and be who they want to be, without having to give consideration to anyone else. That one Saturday during Pride Week is when homosexuality becomes the norm and a young gay such as myself can feely truly and wondrously at peace.
While I did not dance the evening away celebrating with my fellow gays I finally realized the point of Gay Pride. I saw past the parades and the parties and down to the core. Pride is no longer a daunting task that I am forced to investigate from a far but a week when people can simply be who they want without fear of judgement. It took me this long to realize the importance of this event and it is not one I plan on missing in the future.
CC photograph courtesy of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation on Flickr.