Small Town Pride:
PERTH PRIDE PARADES 2014-16
In May, 2016, I received an email from someone asking about Pride then and now, and Charlie's and my general feelings. My reply seemed like a good lead-in to these Perth parade photos, and an excuse to put them online. For a comparison with early Toronto Pride events see the direct links at the end or click on the WEBSITE MENU link there.
Your email has been sitting here unanswered because neither Charlie nor I can think of much to say about Pride, then or now, that isn't the usual bromides. With 45 years of queer celebrations, marches, demos, protests, disruptions, events, organizations, whatever behind us these things all flow together over time. Sure we have specific memories but frequently it takes some thinking to figure out which memory belongs to which occasion.
As for the 1970's and Toronto Pride celebrations in particular, yes they did take place, along with all the other usual cacophony. The parades themselves, when they did happen, were more likely to be referred to as marches, took place on Saturdays, when there were more people around downtown to witness them, and were scheduled for August, to mark the presentation on Parliament Hill in August, 1971 of our demands to the country.
The change to Sundays and to June to coincide with Stonewall celebrations happened in 1981.
Compared to Pride now what was different for Charlie and me in those days was that we were among our chosen family. Throughout those years we were heavily involved in the gay movement. I had left home in 1964 when I was sixteen and had lived in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto working at the usual minimum wage jobs, junior clerk, busboy, dishwasher etc. I was a street messenger in downtown Toronto in 1971 when I discovered gay liberation and Toronto Gay Action – I met my lover, Charlie, at a TGA meeting in July of that year.
He'd been brought up in small northern Ontario mining towns, had escaped from there at 19 by joining the navy, a common route at the time. After his stint there he came to Toronto where he eventually ended up at The Toronto Star as a hot metal printer. That was by way of the skills he acquired as a teenager working as a general factotum at the Atikokan Progress. At the time we met he was also a photographer (unpaid of course) for Guerilla, a Toronto underground newspaper whose collective included a fair number of queer people. His path to gay liberation was both via Guerilla itself and covering early CHAT meetings as the person from Guerilla.
A few years ago we were interviewed by a young gay academic from Toronto, politically correct and nursed on queer theory, who was mostly interested in our connection with the start-up of The Body Politic. His take on those years, specifically referring to the BP but by inference much else, was yes it was all very interesting but of course we had all been white privileged males who'd had the time and money to play at gay liberation – unlike single mothers and working class stiffs who'd had neither time nor means to indulge themselves with that sort of thing. We'd been young and foolish ourselves once and history is always bent to suit ideology so we only smiled and continued on with the interview. In some ways I thought his comment might actually be a perverse sign of progress. After all if a person could be so ignorant of the miasma of oppression and repression that hung over previous decades then perhaps that miasma was truly dissipating.
In any case what Charlie and I found in gay liberation was both community and a way to throw off the centuries of hetero garbage we'd inherited. So in the 1970s when we took part in Pride events it was very much with a feeling of kinship with the people we were among, a ragtag group sharing a sense of mission. We all wanted a future where people would not have to deal with the things we'd had to deal with.
But of course there was much shit still to come and it's all pretty hard on the psyche. In the mid-1970s we became involved with the start-up and running of Toronto Area Gays with its phoneline, married men's group, coming out group, discussion groups and so on. The hope was we could help people find their way into the community, expand that sense of community. A lot of people were involved in TAG, a lot of people moved through its sub-groups, a lot people talked to us via the phoneline. For those of us who were part of TAG it involved years of discussion both of our own lives and the lives of those with whom we came into contact through TAG's activities.
Beyond that, as I say, we were involved in one way or another with a lot of queer groups and were witness to a lot that happened. And beyond that the bars, parks, baths, and clubs were very much part of our life --- you can bet I danced at the revolution.
So when you ask how we feel about current Pride celebrations, there's the ghost of all these things that hangs over us when we go and it's kind of eerie. We haven't been to Toronto Pride for a decade, it's really gotten too big for us to enjoy much. We're an hour from Ottawa so we often walk in the parade there. And the past three years the little town of Perth, a half hour from us has had a parade so we've been going to that too. I counted 125 people behind the banners this year, and as far as numbers go that's a nostalgia trip. But these days there's music and balloons and queer and straight. Everybody seems happy at least for the day, the people who watch the parade go by applaud. The crowd is a mix of young and old and we're the old folks now.
As for a memorable Pride moment, as mentioned on my site I'll settle for King's College Circle, U of T, 1983. The parade comes marching in and across the green space, calling to us, is Parachute Club: Rise Up they sing.
THIS IS A MIX OF CHARLIE'S PHOTOS OF THE PERTH PRIDE PARADES
OF 2014, 2015, 2016.
OR CLICK ON THE WEBSITE MENU LINK BELOW FOR THESE AND OTHER 1970'S (MOSTLY TORONTO) LGBTQ EVENTS