Toronto Pride 2022

Well, it finally happened – we got our Toronto Pride Weekend back after two long years of waiting! The weather was hot and everyone was ready to party. It was a record year for attendance, exceeding something like 1.9 million people invading the downtown core!

On Church Street

Drag Ball 2022

I didn’t take as many pictures of the Church Street antics this year as I was at Yonge-Dundas Square for most of Saturday enjoying the awesome Drag Ball 2022. I came away from that event with a nasty sunburn and COVID-19, but somehow it was all worth it – what a great day!

From Pride Toronto’s website:
Drag Ball is back in-person, baby! And bigger than ever, with over 50 local drag queens, kings, gender performers, and surprise guests from Drag Race Canada and Call Me Mother. These performers will grace this massive stage for one of the biggest drag shows Pride has ever seen. Get ready for glitter bombs, gowns, meaty tucks, wigs, facial hair, passion, hunty, fierce, fierce, fierce, Tongue pop! Hosted by your favourite sweet and sour treat Lemon, you won’t wanna take your eyes off this stage from start to finish. Our city is overflowing with drag talent, so come out and support Toronto’s drag community on this very important day.

Here’s just a bit of what went down that afternoon:

Toronto Pride is back and what a day it was!!!

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

Remembrance Day 2021

Due to COVID-19 many people, including myself, were hesitant to gather at the usual locations to pay our respects this Remembrance Day. In lieu of attending a Remembrance Day service, I submit these shots from an installation at College Park entitled the Colour of Courage.

From the title plaque:

This installation is a tribute to all who have sacrificed their lives for us throughout history. The individuals here remind us that these heroes came from different backgrounds and cultures, and gave up their freedom so that we can have ours.

This is an installation by the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area.

Halloween 2021

Well, another Halloween is here but alas, still no Halloween Street Party on Church Street again this year due to COVID-19. In lieu of the annual street party I did a daytime photowalk to check out the decorated stores and houses. I started on Mutual Street, then headed over to Church Street, and on to Cabbagetown where many of the residents had decorated their homes and yards. Here’s just a bit of what I saw:

Remembering Jake

I was digging through our filing cabinet yesterday in search of some receipt or other, when I came across the funeral memorabilia I had filed when Dad died in 2015. In the file I found Dad’s graveside eulogy delivered on May 13, 2015 by Tom Peters, a warm, wonderful, kind, intelligent man who was the funeral home Director at that time. Sadly, Tom passed in July, 2018, but he left these kind words behind about our Dad, Jake Job. I publish this post to share with the world my love, pride and respect for my parents.

Today will certainly be a day of goodbyes – goodbye to a Dad, a Grandpa, a great-Grandpa and a great-great Grandpa, and there is a certainly a great deal of finality here at the Cemetery as we lay Jake Job to his place of rest.

Just to the north of us amongst all those trees over there, the very first committal service took place at this cemetery, just over 142 years ago in 1873. The Fleishman family stood here at this cemetery much like we’re doing today to say goodbye to their mother Margaret. Granted they were dressed a little differently than we are, they got to the cemetery in a different way than we did, I don’t see any horse and buggies, and the surroundings would be very different. Then, Innisfail was called Poplar Grove and the town looked nothing like it does in 2015. With each passing year, the town will continue to change and this cemetery will continue to expand and, unfortunately, for a lot of us this won’t be our first time here. But we have much in common with the Fleishman family when they had to bury someone they loved, as well as the thousands since then. To figure out and discover how our lives will change now that a loved one has died and how we incorporate their memory – those good things that they lived out in life – how we incorporate those things into our ongoing lives. So today will not be so much about saying goodbye but I think more appropriately to say thank you to Jake for what he has left behind and for the impact and influence he will continue to have.

Fill Not Your Heart
Fill not your hearts with pain and sorrow,
but remember me in every tomorrow.
Remember the joy, the laughter, the smiles
I've only gone to rest a while.
Although my leaving caused pain and grief,
My going has eased my hurt and given me relief.
So dry your eyes and remember me
Not as I am now, but as I used to be,
Because I will remember you all and look on with a smile,
Understand, in your hearts, I've only gone to rest a little while
As long as I have the love of each of you,
I can live my life in the hearts of all of you.

May 13, 2015 will be a day to celebrate that which remains for Jake. His continued legacy will always be before you and I know that there can be no greater gift in death, knowing that one’s life was lived in such a way that other’s lives can never be the same and I believe that to be true of Jake.

I’ve been thinking these last few days on what that continued legacy of Jake looks like, what it might mean for those of you here, how your lives might change since May 9, 2015, the day of his passing. What keeps coming to mind for me about Jake is the five generations picture that was taken in January. It truly is a wonderful picture. Five generations don’t happen very often. The picture itself was incredible and that moment in time should be cherished and treasured. What impacted me the most was seeing the span of almost one hundred years between Grandpa Jake and newborn Isaiah – what truly are the qualities, what truly are the important traits that can be passed down from generation to generation? I can thank my father for my lack of hair line, I can thank my mother for a quirky sense of humour and on my wife’s side, the blue eyes and the big feet seemed to be passed on to every generation. I can tell just by looking at some of you – and sometimes you may not want to admit it – but you’re definitely related! There’s many of the same physical characteristics, whether its height, body shape, eye color, there’s no doubt that you are all connected in some way physically. But what caught my attention about Jake is, yes, there’s physical characteristics he passes down but it goes way deeper; there’s traits that he passes down to each of us that the passage of time can never affect.

What came through so very clearly was Jake’s work ethic. He always wanted to be a farmer and he took the profession as a gift he was given in life and did the very best he could with it. There really is no greater gift in saying that Jake truly was a farmer for all his 98 years.

In the newspaper article, the picture of him looking outside when he was at Autumn Glen Lodge is awesome. He might be checking the weather, seeing if it was conducive to seeding, to harvesting, to maybe having to shut it down for the day because a storm front was coming in. I looked at that picture for a long time and I wondered if he had that same look, looking to the skies about seventy years ago when he stood by his land for the very first time – the very land that had yet to be worked on – and wondered if it was conducive, realistic to the adventure this would set him on.

This farm land, it had never been worked before and here’s this farmer, with not many resources, still a bit green perhaps, but ready to work this land. I’m sure there were many questions: was this the right thing to do?, was it worth the investment?, what would it produce?, do I trust that I have the abilities to do this? He might have taken a glance at his horse and wondered “can we do this?”. Perhaps in later years he would look at his first tractor and wonder “is my tractor truly ready for this”? He might have surveyed the land and thought that particular area might need some extra care, might take a little longer to ensure the seed can grow. There might have been some rocks to take out before the horse gets harnessed and before the tractor gets fired up. But despite the obstacles, despite the uncertainties, to me this is what so needs to be passed down to any generation: he started his tractor, he harnessed that horse and the potential of what that land could yield kept him on that tractor even up to May 9th. The work was unrelenting and back-breaking but he and Hazel never gave up, they never stopped, it was always worth the investment.

Jake would always ask in those last years of his life, “did you get your barley in?”. He wanted farm updates all the time and kept checking the weather conditions. Through Jake’s life I think he asks all of us today – are we ready to break new ground? Have we planted our seed despite the conditions? First hand, Jake would know that conditions aren’t always going to be cooperative: sometimes our tractors are going to have breakdowns, sometimes we will need repair and the terrain can be something we’ve never asked for in life. He would say don’t let fear of the unknown stop us. Stay on the tractor. Growth always involves a level of discomfort, the discomfort is short lived but the growth lasts forever.

I’m sure we have all been in situations where we were asked to break new ground, where it’s uncomfortable and risky, where it’s going to demand us to use every resource we have. Jake would encourage us, too, that we don’t have to figure everything out before we turn the ignition on, before the horse gets harnessed; we won’t be perfect but the more the ground is worked, the easier the seed can grow.

What lasting memory of Jake can we integrate into our ongoing lives? What has he passed on to you that Isaiah, and maybe even my future grandchildren, can be taught? What can the passing of time never take away? Change is constant in our world. Fashion, transportation and technology have changed, not only in the last 142 years since the Fleishman family was here, but will continue to change. The best parts of Jake will continue to live on, though, and among the good memories which one will you allow to transform who you are?

Through you, parts of Jake’s individuality and influence can thread through each day ahead, each year, adding to the tapestry of your life and the lives that follow yours. In that dedicated way, those good things even death itself cannot silence.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born… and a time to die. Here and now … in this final act… in sorrow but without fear… in love and appreciation… we commit Jake to this sacred place.

You can look through the whole world and find that there will never be another Jake Job but he still lives on in your memories. Though no longer a visible part of your lives, he still remains a member of your family and of your circle, through the influence he has had on you and the special part he played in your lives.

My wife and I have a favourite show every Sunday night called Once Upon A Time. It’s a show featuring fairy tale characters living in today’s world. On Sunday night’s episode there was a scene where a boy named Henry has a magic quill. What is written down from the quill becomes reality. Henry is talking with the Sorcerer’s apprentice – he’s the one throughout time who decides who should have the task of being the Author, the one who is given this magic quill, the one who can determine the fate of characters and whether they can have a happy ending. Henry, who is now the Author, looks at his quill and the blank page before him and wonders if he can bring his Dad back from the dead. The apprentice replies – and I want to close our time with this – “Henry, that sadly can never be undone”. The best way to show your love for those who are gone is to tell their stories. These stories of staying on the tractor, persevering through the unknown, loving what you do, treasuring and caring for what you’ve been given – and knowing you can never have enough pie – these can never be erased. They are more than stories, they are the truth and the truth is what we must write in our own stories, stories that can be passed to each generation, a wonderful picture to be cherished and treasured.

Dad’s obituary can be found here.

Toronto Pride 2021

Well, here we are. One year later and still no physical Pride events, here or elsewhere for that matter, thanks to COVID-19 and the state of the world these days <boo, hiss….>.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking about how I could mark this year’s non-event. I could pout and rage (which I feel like doing), but it would be more productive and positive to put together some little tribute to Pride and celebrate in my own way. (By the way, if you’d like to see my Pride retrospective from last year, you can check it out here.)

Rainbow Flag Raising at City Hall

On June 1st this year, the City of Toronto proclaimed Pride Month and raised the Rainbow and Transgender flags at City Hall. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s ceremony was pre-recorded and held virtually. In the video below, Mayor John Tory is joined by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre), Grant Gonzales and Yuri Hernandez from Pride Toronto’s Board of Directors, and Pride Toronto Executive Director Sherwin Modeste. They share messages of solidarity and reflect on milestones being marked this year by Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ community, including the 40th anniversary of Pride Toronto and the 30th anniversary of the City proclaiming Pride Day.

YouTube Livestream Virtual Parade

On Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 2:00-3:00PM, there will a live “Virtual Pride Parade”. Personally, I can’t imagine it, but if interested, it can be found here. Myself, I’m waiting for the real thing next year.

Toronto Pride: Looking Back Once More

So after touching on a couple of things from our current, grotesquely hobbled Pride (and no, I won’t go off on my usual rant), I’ll go back in time as I’m wont to do, to Toronto Pride weekends of the past. Specifically, I thought I’d reminisce a bit about those wonderful GCDC (Gay Community Dance Committee) dances at The Masonic Temple, aka The Concert Hall, at 888 Yonge Street (corner of Yonge and Davenport).

Those dances were great. From roughly 1981 until 1992, they went from 9:00 PM to 5:00AM; there weren’t that many after-hours gay clubs at the time, so it felt slightly radical to be able to dance almost until dawn. There was a major GCDC dance event (and they truly were Events with a capital E) at least a couple of times a year, and the Toronto Pride GCDC dances, especially, were the highlight of the year. The GCDC dances eventually attracted up to 2,000 party-minded people, raking in up to $10,000 each time. As I understand it, the money was split among community groups who gave back to the gay community.

The Masonic Temple in its remodelled form. I took this shot during Toronto’s Doors Open event, May 2015. Sadly, the former Temple/Hall has been converted into office spaces for trendoid companies.

Gay Liberation on the Dance Floor

Our gay community was quite different at the time; it wasn’t the diverse cultural melting pot we see on Church Street today. Even so, the dances were incredible as they brought together so many segments of our community at the same time. Those dance parties were galvanizing, unifying and liberating: they consisted of gay men and lesbians who simply wanted – and loved – to come together to dance.

The dances were apolitical and simply all about fun, dancing and good times, yet they also helped shape Toronto’s gay and lesbian community into what we enjoy today. At the Masonic Hall/Temple, men had the main floor of the Hall, which was massive (I well remember the towering speakers, pulsing lights and lasers), and the lesbians had their own DJs, bar and party in the lower level. There was, and still is, a second floor balcony where you could climb up to get out of the mass of people, and just observe the goings-on on the dance floor below:

A small segment of the upper balcony in the Masonic Temple, May 2015. Massively remodelled for the current office tenants.

The music at those GCDC dances was great. Personally I’ll never forget sweating to Jimmy Somerville’s cover of Never Can Say Goodbye at more than a couple of the events. Here’s a sound sampler on Mixcloud from the November 1, 1986 GCDC Dance at the Masonic Temple, themed I Never Touched The Witch:

As an aside, Mixcloud is a great site if you want to hear what was actually being played in Toronto’s gay clubs at the time. On the Mixcloud page above, there’s two October 14, 1995 sets by DJ Allan Kaufman at Club Colby’s (formerly Katrina’s), and a June 1983 set by DJ Greg Howlett at Club Mystique (after-hours club behind the Manatee on Phipps Street). Oh, I do remember dancing in those clubs back in the day <heaves heavy sigh>… but I digress…

I still remember so well, sadly, when the GCDC dances came to an end once and for all. Appropriately themed The Last Dance, the Masonic Hall played host one last time to the very last GCDC dance at Pride, June 1992. And, of course, I shouldn’t have to tell you what the very last song on the setlist was that night: queue Miss Donna and Last Dance:

GCDC’s Last Dance souvenir T-Shirt

I’ll never forget walking back home at 4:30 in the morning after The Last Dance, up Park Road to our place on Huntley Street, my mind and body still electrified and energized by 6 hours of 130 beats per minute. I remember having a bittersweet mixture of afterglow from the great party combined with the knowledge that a GCDC dance would never happen again.

This weekend I have again proudly hung my Rainbow Flags on the balcony, and will try to get in to the spirit of things. I can’t help looking ahead to next year, though, when things should get back to relative normality. If that’s the case, we’ll have a Pride unlike any other… it will be a hell of a party. Until then, I remain waiting in anticipation… 🙂

Happy Pride, Toronto!!

Happy Victoria Day!

Here’s some reasons to be glad we’re Canadian on this most uniquely Canadian long weekend.

Pictures That Perfectly Sum Up Canada And Its People

Canadian Police Clash With Citizens
Police In Montreal Protest A Labor Dispute By Not Wearing Their Work Pants
Christmas In Canada Is Sometimes Difficult
Canadians Are Notorious For Being Kind
Honest Commuters: Attendants Were Missing And The Automatic Gates Were Broken – This Is The Result!
Police Officer Stops To Buy A Drink From A Little Girl At A Lemonade Stand In Kenora, Ontario
Canadian Victims Of Theft
Canadian Police On The Job
Everything About This Says “Canada”
The Reason Why My Package Wasn’t dropped Off At My Door
This Moose Literally Followed Me Home
Most Canadian Thing Ever
Another Typical Sign
In Canada, Sometimes Even The Robbers Are Polite
And Meanwhile, In Canada…
Quite Possibly The Most Canadian Picture Ever Taken
Friendly warning
A Beaver On His Way To Assassinate Someone
And Lastly, In Canada…