28 Jun SEVEN PRIDE PARADES LATER
I am a white, middle class, cisgender, queer, and non-disabled female. I acknowledge the impact my positionality has on my understanding of the subject matter in this article.
When I was younger, I had never really been exposed to queer culture. At most, I had seen lesbian and gay relationships in some television shows, such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Degrassi. Unfortunately, those characters and their relationships were never fully developed and were often killed off fairly quickly. Therefore, I was clueless about what it meant to be gay, and never really saw queer relationships as a romantic option until I was about thirteen. However, in the seventh grade, my teacher told our class about the Toronto Pride Parade and suggested that we all ask our parents to take us. My best friend and I decided to go together as we loved our homeroom teacher and wanted to impress her. My father was extremely surprised when I asked him to drive us to the Pride Parade, but he agreed, and soon, I was downtown in the midst of the parade. I was completely in awe of everything I saw during my first time at Pride. Everyone I saw seemed so confident in themselves and looked like they knew where they belonged. As an awkward twelve-year-old, seeing so many people who were happy and proud to be themselves, made me want that for myself.
After that experience, I started to explore queer culture and fantasize about one day being more involved in the Pride Parade. I was not yet aware of my sexuality, but I knew that attending the Pride Parade had sparked something inside of me. Every year after that, I attended Pride, and each time I felt myself gaining more and more confidence concerning my identity and sexuality. I started to express interest in same-sex relationships to my closest friends and shared my first kiss with my best friend, who happened to be a girl. Most of my romantic relationships in middle school and high school were with boys, but in between those relationships, I attempted to pursue girls. Unfortunately, no one that I knew in my middle school or in my high school was openly gay, or even really talked about their sexuality. Sexuality and queer relationships were often just talked around and not talked about. There was a Queer Straight Alliance, which I was a part of, but none of us openly confirmed whether or not we were queer. This lack of openness and discussion created an extremely toxic relationship between myself and my sexuality as I felt as if being bisexual was this big secret that I wasn’t allowed to act on or talk about. While my friends and I did attend Pride and were apart of the Queer Straight Alliance none of us ever felt comfortable enough to outright state our sexuality, and instead just stayed in the closet.
My parents never questioned me about my sexuality, even though my bedroom was adorned with rainbow flags, the Toronto Pride Parade was my most anticipated event of the year, and I was one of the leaders of the Queer Straight Alliance at my high school. We just never talked about sexuality or same-sex relationships. Consequently, the only place where I was truly comfortable to even internally embrace my identity, was the Pride Parade. Once I began university, I met more people who were like me, and even if they weren’t fully out of the closet, they expressed to me that they were interested in exploring romantic relationships with individuals of the same gender. Hearing other people come to terms with their sexuality gave me the confidence that I needed to be honest with my friends and with myself. I started to explore relationships with other women and downloaded Tinder. At first, this was really difficult, because I kept wondering if I was making a mistake, or if this was just a phase. Eventually I realized that it wasn’t a mistake, but the fact that I had been forced to hide these feelings for so long had created this internal doubt. I continued to flirt with other women and go on dates and gradually I became more and more comfortable enough to admit to my friends and to myself that I am bisexual. These conversations were fairly easy to have, but gathering the courage to openly say it and to hear yourself say it out loud can be extremely difficult. Thankfully, all of my friends were so accepting and encouraging, and soon, it didn’t feel like this huge burden or secret anymore. My bisexuality just felt like a part of my identity that had always been there and even though it took many years for me to get to this point.
However, coming out to your friends is extremely different from coming out to your parents and family. I often wonder why this is. Our generation seems to feel so much pressure concerning what others think of us. We’re always on social media, posting pictures, and trying to create this perfect online persona. There is this huge pressure on us to be liked by our peers and fit in with those around us. Yet, it is not our peers and friends that are the hardest to come out to. Instead, it is our parents, grandparents, and caregivers that are the most difficult to be honest and open with. I believe that this can be attributed to our generational differences. In the past five years, queer popular culture has become a staple of our generation’s media. The creation of platforms of LGBTQIA2+ expression within mainstream media, has allowed more and more individuals of our generation (including myself) to feel comfortable enough to explore their sexuality. Nonetheless, this openness concerning sexuality was not the case when our parents were our age. In fact, same sex marriage was not legal in any country until 1989 when it finally became legal in Denmark. Perhaps our parents’ generation still views same sex marriage and relationships as taboo because that’s how it was for the majority of their life. Some parents, however, may be more accepting of the LGBTQIA2+ community, but these conversations are still so difficult to have because you are essentially changing their perception of you that they have been creating your whole life.
I attempted to come out to my parents at the beginning of this month, since June is Pride Month and there is no parade this year. I figured that I could celebrate my own pride in my sexuality by finally taking that last step out of the closet. My mother was surprisingly accepting and told me that she was happy that I was able to be so honest with her although she then nervously asked if the fact that I was bisexual meant I was going to be bringing a girl home anytime soon. My father, on the other hand, was not nearly as accepting, and as a result, I am still not completely out. When I mentioned to my dad that I had gone on a date with a woman after my last relationship ended, he asked: “Did she know that you’re straight?” Obviously, the conversation ended there.
Honestly, I did not think that the lack of a Pride Parade would affect me so strongly, but after my failure of a conversation with my father, I am craving the acceptance and validation that I receive during the Toronto Pride Parade. The Pride Parade is a place where I have never felt like I have had to hide my identity and by attending it every year I have been able to come to terms with who I am and my sexuality. It breaks my heart that this year some people, who maybe aren’t out of the closet yet, won’t be able to feel that sense of freedom that Pride fosters. Unfortunately not everyone has had support or acceptance concerning their sexuality and, due to the cancellation of the Pride Parade this year, will not get to feel that sense of belonging. I am so privileged and lucky to have friends that support me and love me for who I am and have attended the Pride Parade with me over the past seven years regardless of their own sexuality. Furthermore, I am so proud of the Queen’s community and of MUSE for celebrating Pride and the LGBTQIA2+ community this month. Even though there isn’t a physical parade, I feel prouder than ever to be who I am and to love who I love.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: RDK Events & Communications (Toronto Pride Parade)