City Guides » Halifax Pride

Get out

Jane Kansas takes a look at why people are still standing on the threshold of the closet.

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Christ, I’m in such a mood just thinking about all this.

In 2005 I am shocked (shocked! Say it in a high operatic voice tinged with contempt) that gay, lesbian, bisexual or just badly confused people still want to keep their sexualities as dirty little secrets. Cowards. Worse.

As in the case of Ida Ho (she made up the name herself), some closet cases aren’t coming further out, but instead backing up, back into the closet. It’s not everything, but walking in a Pride Parade is a kind of milestone affirmation for gay and straight-but-not-narrow people. You need to do it at least once.

Ho will be in the Halifax Pride Parade this Saturday, but in disguise, with big sunglasses and a giant Audrey Hepburnesque hat. “Oh,” she says, “I’m out. But I teach for a living. You know, the parents of my students…” Ho trails off. She recognizes her ambivalence.

“I hate being in this position. It surprises even me and it’s getting worse as I get older. It’s totally about the ability to make money. It’s not about whether people like me or not. I don’t care if people like me or not.”

Some come up with a rationale and stick to it. Bertha B. (she made up that name) has been going to the after-parade reception for five or six years, but she’s never walked in the parade. “Well,” she says, “I always thought it was groups of people who were represented in the parade, not just individuals who were gay or lesbian. To a large extent I still think that. Partners will go in the parade, or singles connected with a group, but singles don’t.”

When the planets are in alignment my aggressive contempt turns to a passive pity and then I think of closet cases as coming to (a sad, fantastical) life as the last lonely unicorn. You know the sucky cards and posters: There the last lonely unicorn stands, big tears falling from its eyes, all alone on a rocky cliff while the ark (in this case the gay ark stuffed full of caring, emotionally mature, financially independent, cat-loving, motorcycle mama lesbians and single, sweet, funny, Patsy Cline channelling, cock-pig gay boys and lots of bisexuals) sails away.

I have a new reason to cut these last lonely unicorns some slack. After all, when six days before the 2005 Pride Parade they read in Nova Scotia’s paper of record that homos should tone it down, the last lonely unicorns are bound to stay shy until the next ark sails. Or longer.

This is from Peter Duffy’s column in last Sunday’s Halifax Herald. It was originally written in response to the recent visit by Rosie O’Donnell, and addressed to her. I’ve replaced only the gay words, with black words. (Pass me the SPF 2,000. I’m going to burn in hell, I know.)

Dear Oprah Winfrey,

I’m so glad you enjoyed your brief visit to Halifax, you and all the other black passengers aboard that cruise ship.

Yes, this is a nice town and yes, we’re rather proud of it, in our own quiet little way.

And that’s the thing.

You see, I felt rather uncomfortable the way you and some of your buddies were striding around like you owned the place, gushing about what a “black-friendly” place this is.

All that rhetoric struck me as a little over the top, ditto the media coverage and the way our mayor allowed himself to be roped into it all.

It all felt, well, kind of forced somehow.

And while I’m at it, frankly, I had trouble with your conclusion that our little corner of the world has achieved a black-friendly equilibrium.

I think that’s a wee bit premature.

The reality of equal rights for black couples is still a relatively new state of mind for many Nova Scotians, particularly older ones.

Sorry Oprah but my instincts tell me we’ve only reached the “black-acceptance” point here, not the brass band, red carpet welcoming stage.

That will probably come, with time.

Until then, dear Oprah, perhaps you and your chums could tone it down a notch or two.

Yes, come back any time but please, try and behave like ordinary tourists. Because, when all’s said and done, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sincerely, etc., etc.

It’s sad that in 2005, it’s only, the toned-down, ordinary, quiet homos who are supposedly acceptable. Don’t stand out. Don’t be a celebrity. Keep your head down and no one will bother you.

I don’t have Pat Califia’s book Macho Sluts on hand, so this is a paraphrase from the introduction: When you live in a world that wishes you didn’t exist, anything you do to keep yourself happy, to celebrate yourself, is a victory.

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