Instead, we participated in the more modest Pride festivities in Victoria, usually held on the weekend following Canada Day. As the last float passed by us, we joined the vast crowd of people walking past The Empress Hotel and through James Bay to Fisherman's Wharf Park. It was the one opportunity we had during the year to hold each other's hand in public, and to show our solidarity with the community as a whole and with our numerous straight supporters.
For me, this was the highlight of the occasion--not the parade, the naked boys and drag queens, and not the crowds of people milling aimlessly about the park, preyed upon for their money at a number of booths selling a myriad of products and services. By far, the best part of the whole day was standing among people who would not judge me for being gay; laugh at me because I held the hand of the man I've loved and been partnered with for the past seventeen years; or taunt me because I gave him a kiss on the lips.
When Chris and I lived in Vancouver, prior to August 2000, we attended every Pride parade. They were a blast. We looked forward to it all year--it was a time of celebration, after all--and we wouldn't have missed one for anything. We couldn't wait to be in the large crowds of people, to see the cute, naked boys on the floats, to witness how outrageous some people could be.
One year, we saw a fellow wearing a kilt and inline skates. As he swung around and around on the skates, his kilt lifted, and he confirmed that at least some gay men wearing kilts wore nothing underneath. All good, not-so-clean fun, right? Certainly enough to get us out of the house, on a usually sunny, hot Sunday in early August, to be among people just like us.
But, this year, the first occasion for us to be able to take in Vancouver Pride in a decade, I have no desire to go. In fact, the parade couldn't interest me less.
For one, over time, the parade has become more commercial and political than ever. Increasingly, it's an opportunity for corporate sponsors to reach out their greedy hands for the gay dollar, all while supposedly showing support for the GLBT community. And for political representatives to secure votes for the next municipal, provincial, or federal election. In that sense, I think Pride has lost its soul. It should be about GLBT people coming together, to support one another and to demonstrate pride for who they are, not about dollars and votes.
I think the gay community has sabotaged itself too. If I remember correctly, there was more diversity in parades past, where the GLBT community seemed better represented according to its actual make-up as a whole. Over time, the parade became flashier, placing the drag queens (and kings), public nudity, and young, pretty boys front and center, thereby attracting more spectators to the event and helping to contribute to Vancouver's reputation as a fun and happening city.
Not only do Pride parades not appeal to me any longer, but also they don't represent me as a member of the community, to other gay people and especially to straight people. What does the parade offer to the gay man, who isn't so young anymore, who isn't as pretty as he once was, who is happily settled in the suburbs in a long-term relationship, and who increasingly feels alienated from what's happening downtown--the bars, the clubs, the bathhouses, the cruises, the beaches, the trails, and whatever else.
And what do straight people think about us when they see the parade? When they get beyond the spectacle of it, the novelty, the obscenity? Do they think that all gay people are alike--that we all dress in women's clothing; that we're all bigger than life; that we only care about our appearance; that we're all about sex, sex, and more sex? I resent straight people potentially thinking that about me, just because I'm gay, and just because they saw so much of that at a Pride parade.
Hopefully, young, pretty gay men, through the natural process of maturation--or is it aging?-- move beyond their hedonistic lives, presumably to become the full and purposeful human beings they were intended to be. And, when that happens, what's left as far as the current incarnation of Pride is concerned--other than to grow quiet, and isolated, and invisible?
No, whether the Pride Society intended it or not, the Pride parade has lost me. I don't need to attend, only to be reminded of how superficial many fags are; how focused on youth and beauty, muscles and tans they are; and how sex seems to be the only thing that motivates them. I was never like that, and I certainly have no interest in being that now, not when there are so many more important things in life.