Gay Pride Toronto: First Timers Guide
There is always something electric about Toronto during Pride week, there are many who blame the many celebrations, themed club nights and how the village comes alive with colour but even the concrete seems to radiate excitement during those seven days. There are many members of the LGBT community who believe the Pride parade is an antiquated ritual and should be abandoned; there is no need for a parade celebrating something the majority of people have no issue with anymore but for others, they believe it has become a testament to the payoff of years of struggling.
I was nineteen when I attended my first Pride parade. I went alone. I don't think I have ever been that nervous about anything in my life, I could not shake the notion I would run into someone I knew and 'outing' myself. I can only imagine this is a common issue for closeted teens wanting to attend their first pride parade, the last thing you want to do is get caught strolling through a large crowd of gay men and women by someone you go to school with.
Unfortunately, I walked directly into one of my aunts sisters who was busy selling t-shirts for her PR firm, it was one of the most awkward moments of my entire life, I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I remember awkwardly waving before turning quickly and smashing into a 6'4 drag queen, wearing the highest silver stilettos I had ever seen, while I tried to flee the scene. So, my fledgling gay, I have compiled a list of ways to survive your first pride parade, whether you are closeted or not.
Rules of the Stuff: Rainbow Flags, Pride Beads and Rainbow Shutter Shades
There is a time and a place for rainbow flags, rainbow tattoos and rainbow stickers but when you are attending the Pride parade as a closeted homosexual, that place is not on your shirtless torso. You can take these items but please, do not do any of the following things with them:
- Remove your shirt to (a) decorate your chest with the tattoos or stickers or (b) ask someone to help your create a rainbow flagged tramp stamp, or, finally, (c) stick the rainbow sticker on your cheek (you are not a five year old child with a Sailor Moon sticker)
- Slide the flag into your back pocket, your baseball cap netting or button-downs front pocket. These are not only unattractive but they tend to attract attention from any news network covering the event, you cannot be closeted while being featured on the six o'clock news. These crowd shots have gotten some of my friends into extremely awkward situations with family.
There is something fun about pride beads, so if you have decided to continue wearing your shirt throughout the parade, they can be easily slipped under your shirt and later, into your pocket when you arrive home. They are a staple of any pride attendee and make an easily concealable token of your first pride celebration, so collect away.
Are you considering purchasing Pride Shutter Shades? I need you to step away from the booth and walk calmly in the opposite direction; they are a horrendous trend and should be avoided at all costs. They are still the hideous cheap plastic glasses you turned your nose up at, a few days ago, just spray painted for Pride. You also do not want to be associated with a group of people who can be distinguished by the tan that says, "my hobbies include peering through my neighbours bedroom blinds, so I can watch him undress"
Here are some other things to remember when attending your first Pride parade:
- Cash (most vendors do not have portable debit machines)
You do not want to be the one burned guy or gal in a crowd of perfectly bronzed Adonises, in speedos.
See, See, No Touch: Do Not Touch, Grope or Slap Any Other Pride Attendee
No one likes being grabbed while stepping off the sidewalk, it makes the person who has been grabbed feel cheap and unappreciated, like a piece of meat in jeans to be used. I am sure you would not like having your junk, butt or stomach grabbed while casually walking the streets. It is not a good feeling and most guys squeeze way too hard in their haste.
The best way to remain anonymous during your first pride is to keep your hands to yourself, touching usually inspires conversation and should be avoided. The best way to blend into the crowd and keep your wandering hands in your pockets. Though, I would suggest taking the free stuff offered from the vendors; they give out free condoms, teeshirts and, sometimes, underwear.
I have a pair of underwear reading, 'my ass is proud to be gay', I have never worn them but they were free and I will cherish them forever. Free stuff is always better than the stuff you paid for.
Say 'Yes' to the Vendors and Soak-up the Information
I have always thought the best part of Pride are the innumerable vendors lining the streets and the countless information booths intermixed between them. There is a common misconception that Pride is just a very large party for the LGBT community int Toronto, but it is also a one-stop shop for any new LGBT member with questions. Though many answers can be found online there is something deeply comforting about asking an actual person, who is also gay or lesbian, to help explain to you what you are reading or what their organization is truly about.
When I was a closeted nineteen year old, most of the questions I had were answered by an old woman in a sequinned bra. She may have been older than my Grandmother but she answered every single one of my questions without judgement and directed me to various other booths. Stock up on the pamphlets and fridge magnets because information will help protect you against contracting sexually transmitted diseases, answer any 'coming-out' questions you may have and offer tips on having the conversation with your family and friends.
How does this help you to blend in and not be seen by someone you know? It may not but you will be surrounded by tons of people who have gone through similar experiences than you are, you should feel like you are home and be relieved to be with a group of people who you can relate with. Also, to be honest, not many people stray far from the free condoms, half-naked men who are posing with attendees or the actual parade. You have avoided the rainbow stickers and the dread shutter-shades, so wear the low-key outfit and ask all the questions you want.
Try not to drool over the wildly attractive men/women and have an awesome first pride. If you happen to run into someone that you know, I suggest the old excuse, "Oh, this is the Pride parade?! I was told by some guy this is where the good beer and hustlers were sold!"