Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

I went to watch the Vancouver Pride Parade today. It was my first time attending, but their 33rd year, so forgive me if this post doesn’t have as much historical context as it deserves. Also of note: I’m not gay, and so may in fact not know what I’m talking about. (hmm.)

What a corporate gladfest it was! I mean, I was as excited as the next person to see fit, active youth in skimpy clothing carousing on flatbed trucks advertising London Drugs, Safeway, TD, Telus, CTV, CBC, Westjet, Flight Center, The Peak, Global and Starbucks—not to mention the paramedics, police, firemen, RCMP and, yes, the Canadian Border Services Agency looking sharp in their uniforms and shiny cars (they’re hiring!).

But I was sad not to see more community organizations represented. Dykes on Bikes led the parade, and there were floats from local companies and groups, too, like the Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the GBLT soccer club. But it felt often more like the Macy’s Thanksgiving commercial parade than the political and community activism event that I was expecting.

It was tremendously long: 130 entries, taking 2.5 hours to pass me. I was standing around midway on the route, out front of the Denman Place mall. Every corporate float, while well intentioned, was a community group who couldn’t get in or afford the entry fee.

And when it was first over, my overall impression was one of prudism—odd, I know, considering the number of hip gyrations that passed me by during the parade.

Looking over my photos, I can see that there was no shortage of exposed skin. Sure, there was very little actual nudity—I had been expecting more of that, and more people dressed in fetish- / kink-wear as opposed to club, beach and fantasy attire. But on second assessment, I can’t say it was prudish: this photo alone proves that:

Instead what it was lacking, from my point of view, was much visible expression of actual homosexual behavior—not THAT, you perv.  I mean, love and affection, hand-holding, kissing, being open and out in a non-individualistic way—as couples. I mean, yes, homosexuality is as much about sex as it is about relationships. Filling a float full of gay men dancing doesn’t really flaunt any freedoms they didn’t already have—there aren’t many people who object to the sight of hot men dancing. The parade could have shown them walking by, holding hands, and it would have shocked, empowered and thrilled the crowd even more, I think.

Equally, putting a lesbian in a gown standing in the back of a truck just makes her look like any other pageant queen. Have her stand with her partner, holding hands, hugging—that’s what Pride should be about. At least, that’s what the parade’s slogan, “Educate, liberate, celebrate” seemed to promise to me.

Of course, there were some floats that did touch on some wonderful / tragic movements and issues; the various AIDS research, support and memorial floats; the pink shirt anti-bullying movement; the double decker breast cancer bus (no pun intended I’m sure); Salaam, the Queer Muslim Community; and the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, just to name some of the ones I remember. And the number of people in the various union floats was also pretty incredible.

I’m glad we’ve reached the place where Pride Parade—and gay equality—isn’t underground or scary to big businesses. And I don’t want to take away from anyone who marched boldly in public today, or from the people, gay and straight, who attended, brought kids, cheered and celebrated and caught free beads and jelly beans and condoms thrown at them. Heck, I’m completely impressed by the efforts of the volunteers and the creativity of some of the floats, and at the support of those attending.

In fact, the best part of the parade, I thought, was the attendance of so many MPs and provincial politicians, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Mayor Gregor Robertson also showing up (unlike Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford. They showed me they understood the political importance of this event.

Because this isn’t the “Fun Costume on the August Long Weekend Parade,” it’s the “Pride Parade,” and it got started with “Gay Freedom” and “Gay Liberation” marches in the 1970s. If there is happy celebrating now, it’s because there was hard political work done over the past 40 years. And there’s still, despite Canada’s stereotype as a tolerant, progressive country, plenty of social and political progress that remains to be done.

I want people to bring their kids to the Pride Parade not (just) because it’s become saccarine and commercial and safe, but because the parade still showcases the efforts that individuals and local organizations are making to self-organize, to improve understanding and support of GLBT rights, and to bring about a more tolerant, open and representative society.

(For more photos, check out the Vancouver Sun.)



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