While I’ve never been anti-gay, I haven’t always been pro-Pride. In my 20s & 30s, I didn’t get all the hype about the Pride Parade – I thought to myself, ‘So, you’re gay: what’s the big deal?!’ Now, it is my favourite day of the year! I can’t think of a better way to show the citizens of London, in general, and the LGBT community, in particular, just what some Christians are made of! So, what happened to account for this 180 degree change? For me, it was knowledge.
In 2006, I taught a Gender & Sexuality course at Western. That’s when I learned about Stonewall: the “Rosa Parks moment” for the gay community. On June 28, 1969, patrons at a gay bar, called the Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village, New York city, fought back against what was then ongoing oppression from the authorities in what became a pivotal moment in the history of gay rights. These patrons were sick and tired of being harassed by police during raids that were sanctioned by the city. On this particular night, patrons had had enough, and, understandably, a riot broke out. I urge you to Google “Stonewall rebellion” for the details. The crux of it: the patrons were fed up of being treated as second-class citizens and refused to comply with the police. This was the birthplace of modern gay rights, and every year ever since, people all over the globe commemorate it by holding Pride Parades.
“Okay, so, I get it!” For me, then, it was the revelation that gay people had endured this type of legally sanctioned oppression on a regular basis and not all that long ago! After that, I was happy to see coverage of the Pride Parade every year on our local news station, here, in London, Ontario – and throughout the world as well.
Last year, when I learned that Trinity was going to be entering a float in the Pride parade for the first time, Gary (my husband) and I jumped at the chance to get on that bandwagon! What an opportunity to put Christian principles to work in a tangible way. It was an amazing experience. This year, once again, we were happy to join in the celebration.
Of course, when you get to be older, just getting on the float (literally-speaking) can be a challenge! However, once on the float, it was clear sailing after that. It was refreshing to see the wide range of ages of participants on the float. I think Heaven Avery, Barb’s lovely 8 year old granddaughter, had to be the youngest, and my husband, Gary, at 73, was likely the oldest. Of course, we had everything in between: many teens, some young people (under 35), and middle-aged folks like myself and the band members.
And, we had our walk-alongs and ride-alongs – those who didn’t ride on our float but walked (or cycled and often danced to the beat) behind us and beside us joyfully and busily greeting people and handing out chocolates. This included, Eric, Damian, Alex, Siobhan, and Cat with Trinity’s new mascot, Doom – just to name a few. We had some high-energy cheerleaders leading us on with cheers like: “I say RAIN-BOW, you say PRIDE (x5)!” You get the picture. The band (Paul, Cathy, Dale, Kurtis and Rodney) was amazing doing favourites like, “We are Family” which they put their own Trinity spin on by ending the song with the line: “We are Trinity!” Then, I couldn’t believe my ears when the band did a tremendous rendition of arguably one of the best-selling singles of all times, Lady Gaga’s anthem to the LGBT community, “Born This Way”. I felt like the coolest kid on the block! I loved hearing Paul chant those fun lyrics, “Don’t be a drag – just be a Queen.” (x3) The positive energy from this powerful song just exploded both for the Trinity Pride participants (both on and off the float) and for the spectators on the street as we passed them by. The look of splendor and surprise on the faces of the spectators was priceless. Perhaps, their awe was underscored by the fact that we were a “Church float”. It was as if they were thinking, ‘Who knew that church people could be so cool?!’
We may have been the coolest kids on the block, but man was it hot! It was 28 degrees, not factoring in the humidity. Not a cloud in sight. Thankfully, one kind gentleman watering his boulevard sprayed us with his hose as we passed him by – I think it was Divine intervention! And, I couldn’t get over the crowds of people out to welcome us: people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, abilities, etc. How cool is that?! Many had their four legged friends to join in the fun. What a connection we made with the spectators: magnetic and magical all at once. What an honour to put our Trinity principles of respect, kindness, and fairness into action in our community. To quote Paul right afterwards, “What a rush”!