Growing up Catholic meant that I was well equipped for being gay. The pomp and ceremony of Catholic mass—with ornate vestments, gold jewellery, and hymns—translated easily into the ritual of the gay pride parade. Pride has always had its own uniforms, adornment in excess, and anthems reserved just for this occasion. Throw in a procession and booze from a shared cup, and it’s no surprise that I felt quite at home.
I started going to pride when I was 16 or 17; it was a pilgrimage into Vancouver for the weekend. Our vestments were long corduroy shorts and vintage t-shirts with the sleeves cut off. Jewels were leather wrist cuffs, hemp necklaces. Hymns were basically the entire double album of Ani DiFranco’sLiving in Clip. Booze from the shared cup was procured from the PumpJack, Davie Street’s leather daddy bar. I made out with my girlfriend on the corner of Davie and Burrard, ignoring the car honking and hollers of encouragement.
Pride season always started with “Gay Day” at the Pacific National Exhibition. Gay Day meant there was a very good chance you would ride a roller coaster with a local drag queen’s wig whipping you in the face. The entire park was filled with face-painted gays teetering around with giant sippy-cups cut with vodka. Hymns included (but were not limited to) Madonna, Cher, Diana Ross, k.d lang, and show tunes. You were dizzy. You were delirious. You draped your arms around your friends and marvelled at the sight of so many queer people tromping around in broad daylight.
In my twenties and thirties, pride became more of a private worship, with the parade only promising TD Bank floats and heat stroke. The dyke march on The Drive replaced the pride parade on Davie, followed by backyard parties and potlucks. Ironically, these events allowed for more elaborate costumes including deep-Vs, high-cut onesies, rainbow mardi gras beads, and three-inch platforms. After all, you had the privacy of your own bathroom in which to disrobe completely and relieve yourself if need be.
We put “Happy Pride” signs in our window so our neighbours would know there were queers in the basement, praying to their queer gods, burning incense and lighting candles. Robyn was blasting from all available speakers—our Swedish patron saint of homosexuals.
This year, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, pride is going to feel a little different.
Am I sad there is no parade? I’m sad for the young queers who, like me, used it as my first foray into queer culture. But to be honest, I think the parade represents a small part of what queer culture is all about. Pride is political. It has always been political. We don’t need thousands of people gathering on a hot day in the beginning of August to feel pride.
We can look back at the actions, origins, and movements of the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and the NOWs. Look at clashes with police in Greenwich Village. Look at fatal police shootings targeting Black individuals. Look at each other. Be inspired by activists, queens, kings, and trans people of all kinds. Be active in this relentless fight for all human rights and freedoms that is happening today. Be safe and respectful of those around you.
Can you do that from your living room? Hell yes you can. We are on the same team.
Maybe your vestments this year are different: gloves, bedazzled masks, robes, gowns.
Maybe your jewels are different: eye protection, visors, pithy signs.
Maybe you don’t drink anything from a shared cup this year (or next), but we will still have our music, queers! To help you get through this parade-less pride season, enjoy this short playlist ofGay Hymns From the Church of Homo:
- Hercules and Love Affair - “Blind”
- Scissor Sisters - “Let’s Have A Kiki”
- Robyn - “Call your Girlfriend”
- Kyle Minogue - “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”
- Hot Chip - “Boy From School”
- k.d. lang - “Miss Chatelaine”
- Queen - “Don’t Stop Me Now”
- April March - “Chick Habit”
- Wanda Jackson - “Funnel of Love”
- Kate Bush - “Hounds of Love”
- Ani DiFranco - “Both Hands”
- Girl in Red - “Girls”
- Indigo Girls - “Closer to Fine”
- Tracy Trapman - “Fast Car”
- Des’ree - “You Gotta Be”
- The Slits - “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”
- Jonathan Richman - “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar”
Bless you homos. Be safe.