Why the Return of In-Person Pride Festivals Is So Important to the LGBTQ2S+ Community

With Pride happening next weekend in Toronto – after a two year absence due to COVID-19 – I thought it quite appropriate to repost this article by Gordon Bowness from the everythingzoomer.com website. So much of the article sums up my feelings about this special time of year.

Happy Pride!

The pride flag raising ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 20, 2018. Various in-person Pride events are scheduled for throughout this month and next in cities across Canada. Photo: Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press

I know how to do Pride well. I can run a mile in a cork wedgie — and have, repeatedly, even as I slid into my late 50s. I marched in New York at an unsanctioned parade to mark AIDS activism and the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, the 1969 riot sparked by a police raid on a LGBTQ2S+ club. This uprising by a group of white, brown and Black queer and trans folk is commemorated by all Prides, like the one in my hometown of Winnipeg, which I skipped through in a sarong. Or the parade in Toronto that my boyfriend and I, dressed in ridiculous outfits, pranced through for 18 years in a row, a tradition that stopped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To say that I yearn to reconnect physically with legions of other LGBTQ2S+ folks at Pride is a gross understatement.

That desire among queer and trans folk is palpable across the country. There is a special energy generated when we gather en masse. And while we have shown incredible ingenuity and tenacity in maintaining connections through social media and other physically distant means, nothing can replace that face-to-face, skin-to-skin, high-heels-on-pavement connection.

After a two-year hiatus, Pride festivities return to in-person events across Canada this summer, with parades being planned from Victoria (June 26) to Winnipeg (June 5), Toronto (June 26) to St. John’s (July 14).

Granted, many Canadians are still wary of COVID-19 and may prefer to show their Pride online or at more private affairs. But those who do venture out are going to devour every flirty look, every awkward encounter with our exes, every moment of campy excess.

The author (right) with boyfriend Maurice Vellekoop, at a Toronto Pride parade. Photo: Lucinda Wallace

At the heart of Pride’s exuberance beats an ignoble secret: pain. That’s why queer and trans joy is so intense; it’s the flip side of pain. And that’s why Pride has always been a party and a protest, whether it was during the AIDS crisis of the ’80s and ’90s, the calls for racial justice and defunding the police in the last few years, or our current crisis of violence against trans folk, where a rash of legislative attacks on trans youth march in lockstep with physical attacks, especially against trans women of colour. A lot of intersectional politics courses through the seemingly frivolous festivities at Pride. Many in our communities are besieged. But when the world is out to get you, there is something vitally radical about just being alive. It’s a simple truth, hard won. Pride is a celebration of life.

Have the past two years been challenging for you? Come join us queer and trans folk at Pride. Shake out the sorrow. We know how to do this, and why.

A version this article appeared in the June/July 2022 issue with the headline ‘Canadian Pride’, p. 13.

Essential Lyrics #5: Wake Me Up

By way of serendipity I ended up reading the Wiki on Avicii the other day, and thought what a sad story his is. He had enormous success and was loved by fans in so many countries but, in the end, it all became too much for him to bear. The lyrics of Wake Me Up speak to his emotional searching and longing – thoughts and fears we all share.

Avicii, born Tim Bergling was a renowned Swedish musician, DJ, remix artist, and record producer. Born in Stockholm in 1989, he became one of the most popular DJs in the world. Avicii topped charts and toured many countries with his music. The single Wake Me Up was incredibly successful – it reached the number 1 position in over 20 countries across the globe, including Avicii’s home country of Sweden. Wake Me Up was written by Avicii, Aloe Blacc (who delivers the track’s powerful vocals) and American guitarist Mike Einziger.

Avicii released his first studio album, True, in 2013. The album earned him recognition by reaching the top 10 on the international charts and ranking number one in several countries. Wake Me Up, the lead single on the album, topped the music charts of over 30 countries. It reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and has received a six-time platinum certification from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

Sadly, Avicii committed suicide on April 20, 2018, at age 28; so young. His mind and body just couldn’t take any more of the pressure and stress his incredible success had generated.

Wake Me Up

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don’t have any plans
Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life’s a game made for everyone
And love is a prize

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
I didn’t know I was lost

I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know

Songwriters: Tim Bergling / Michael Aaron Einziger / Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins
Wake Me Up lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Introducing… Ollie!

Hugs and hellos to our new family member – Ollie!

Ollie is a male tri-colour Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I’ve longed for a Cavalier as long as I can remember; they are a beautiful, calm, obedient breed devoted to their owners. Physically they are beautiful and regal, with their long fluffy ears, lush coat and big, soulful brown eyes.

We had been on the Cavalier waiting lists of several Ontario breeders for some time anticipating our puppy, but we had to wait until the time was right for us. Vince retired at the end of last year, so we wanted to wait until his retirement before we could take on the responsibilities a new puppy demands, not to mention the time and energy required (it’s a 24/7 job!). It has been about 15 years since we raised Sophie from a pup and, in the words of Ms. Dion, it’s all coming back to me now. Ollie is indeed a handful, but we love him dearly, and he will eventually mature into a wonderful dog.

Picking Ollie up on May 7th from Cedar Creek Kennels

Ollie came into our lives at 8 weeks old on May 7th this year when we picked him up at the breeders, Cedar Creek Kennels (awesome folks by the way) near Amaranth, Ontario.

Another BIG reason we wanted a second dog was for our lovely girl, Tulip! Ollie’s arrival has almost completely transformed her! She is now full of bounce and play, whereas before it was couch-city for her most of the time. Tulip is only 3 years old, so she still has plenty of bounce. Ollie and Tulip really like each other and get on so well – I know that as time goes by they will become each other’s best friend. Together, they take tussling and romping to a whole new level.

Since Ollie is only a few weeks old he has not yet had all his vaccinations, so we’ve not been able to take him outside to meet other dogs. When we do go outside with him we’ve been carrying him in our arms; this way it helps with his socialization (to urban sounds, different people, etc.). Some of you have already met his furry little self, though, and we’ll become more visible around the condo grounds once he’s had his shots (which will be soon…).

So, Ollie, here’s to a long and healthy life with us!

In The Company of Dogs

Love this one! I rediscovered this shot today while going through the old photos of our trip to Vienna, Austria in 2015. This was a beer ad found on the side of a bus shelter.

Translation: “A good beer has always been demanded by good company”.

On Procrastination

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Sonnet 94, William Shakespeare

World AIDS Day 2021

It hasn’t gone away.

I hadn’t visited the AIDS Memorial in Barbara Hall Park for quite a while. After last week’s brief and beautiful snowfall, I went out to capture some shots and ended up spending some time in the Memorial. It is remarkable, and saddening, to look at all the names of those who have died of AIDS over the years. The late 80s and early 90s, especially, took the worst toll; there are several pillars dedicated to 1988-90 alone. As you scan chronologically through the plaques in the memorial, it’s indicative of the distance we’ve come in fighting this disease: there is only a solitary name on the 2021 plaque.

AIDS is still with us; it’s just more manageable now thanks to the variety of life-saving meds out there.

Masking Up For Rosanne

Well, better late than never. The enduring Rosanne Cash graced the stage of The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall in downtown Toronto last Saturday night along with her incredible band (including husband Steve Leventhal), and it proved to be a terrific show. Originally this concert was scheduled for Sunday, April 11, 2021 but, like so many things the last couple of years, was postponed due to COVID-19.

The crowd was overjoyed to see her, and Rosanne herself was truly thrilled to be there, and said so. While I’m not a Rosanne Cash fan per se (Vince instigated the ticket purchasing and I came along for the ride), I do appreciate good music of any genre – and what a great venue for the concert: the beautiful and acoustically-superb Koerner Hall!:

Koerner Hall

I was very curious, especially, to see exactly how something like a concert can be attended during these pandemic times. Masks and second vaccinations were required for entry, and here’s what the crowd looked like:

I didn’t get any shots of the actual concert as photography during the concert was prohibited; as a good Canadian I acquiesced and obeyed the rules. I did, however, grab a quick shot of the stage before the evening got under way:

The stage, pre-concert

Here’s what the concert setlist looked like:

A Feather’s Not a Bird
The Sunken Lands
Etta’s Tune
The Only Thing Worth Fighting For
Tryin’ to Get Home
(Reverend Gary Davis cover)
Crossing to Jerusalem
Particle and Wave
She Remembers Everything
Long Black Veil
(Lefty Frizzell cover)
Ode to Billie Joe (Bobbie Gentry cover)
The World Unseen
When the Master Calls the Roll
Blue Moon With Heartache
The Killing Fields
Money Road
Tennessee Flat Top Box
(Johnny Cash cover)
Encore: Seven Year Ache

All in all, a great concert by a beautiful, talented and charming performer. Thank you so much, Rosanne, for braving COVID and travelling from the U.S. to deliver this perfect concert to us. Apparently this was the only Canadian date on her tour and we were honoured to have her.