- John Williams is a long-time Halifax resident and founder of the now-defunct queer publication Gaze. His favourite Golden Girl is Dorothy.
Halifax kicks off its 28th annual Pride festival this week, and while many of my queer sidekicks are giddy with shirtless, crotch-pulsing enthusiasm, I am not among them.
I remember well my first official Halifax pride. Twas the summer of 2009, and I had just come out—publicly, in the pages of Frank, no less—three months before. After years of sitting on the sidelines, struggling with my own sexual identity and trying in vain to fend off the "demons," I was finally free to let my thinning hair down and be myself. Betwixt the unbridled drinking and non-stop dancing, I experienced a camaraderie that week I'd never before known. Surrounded by queers of every age, size, shape and colour, everything (except maybe the hangovers) seemed magical.
I've never again felt that same sense of belonging or euphoria during Pride—at least here in Halifax. In fact, last year, I left town altogether and this year, I have similar plans. Why? I'm not entirely certain. Maybe it's the ghosts of gay prides past that continue to haunt my former social circle. Maybe it's the fact that the camaraderie I experienced that first summer has since been replaced by oversexed "friends" who would thoughtlessly throw me in front of a fast-moving bus to get closer to their next conquest. Or maybe I'm just a bitter old queen, exhausted by conversations that barely evolve beyond the "top or bottom?" question, or the shameless co-opting of the rainbow flag by Pride-sponsoring corporations.
Either way, I will not be participating.
But lest I end up being labelled a self-hating homo, I'd like to make it clear that my personal biases (and I freely admit, they are personal), do not stand in the way of my overall support for the gay community or the gay pride movement.
We often take for granted that, in this country, we are free to openly kiss the person we love (or drunkenly think we do) regardless of sex or gender and without fear of persecution, or worse, prosecution.
In 1976, two men were charged with and subsequently convicted of indecency for kissing at Toronto's Bloor and Yonge Streets. Today, gay marriage is a decade-old, nation-wide institution. This move didn't happen overnight.
By comparison, homosexuality remains a criminal act in 36 of Africa's 54 countries, with gay marriage being legal in just one—South Africa.
Here, Pride festivities allow us the freedom to officially celebrate who we are (even if we don't like each other), without having to worry about the arrival of tear gas-wielding, rubber bullet-firing police. Individuals taking part in a peaceful parade in Istanbul last month were not so fortunate. Sadly these sorts of incidents are far from isolated and will only end with perseverance and a united desire for change.
So even though you won't see this bitter old queen at any of the festival's events this year, rest assured that I am nonetheless aware, and grateful that I am free to make the choice.