When you come out of the closet thinking you are, maybe, one in a hundred thousand and see that its more like one in ten or less, its amazing. To attend Pride is just mind-blowing to see how many of us there are in this wonderful community.
I’m not positive on what year it was that I attended my first Toronto Pride Parade but hopefully these photos will prompt someone to leave a comment to tell me. I’m thinking it was 1996 or 97?
I have written before about coming out at the age of 37 to family and a few friends. I wasn’t out at work so I was still being careful whom I wanted to know. I had watched the parade on television a couple of years prior to attending my first one. I had this fear that if I was caught on camera, someone from work would see me and then I’d have to answer a lot of questions, so I shied away from going to the parade. This particular year I just said, “to hell with it”, I was going.
Saturday morning I packed up my Roliflex SLR camera, three rolls of Fuji film, a change of clothes and I was on the bus to Toronto by noon. More than half of the people on the bus with me were going for the same reason. Some wore the pride colours on jewelry or clothing and holding pride flags in their hands or stuffed in their handbags.
When I came out as a gay man, I was living in the small community of Cambridge Ontario. I learned there was a gay dance that happened every Saturday night, but it took me over three months to actually make it through the doors. Once inside I was in awe, there was 200-plus people in there. I had no idea how big the gay community really was. Now there I was, in Toronto, at Pride and there are thousands; there could be no way for anyone to feel alone.
Sunday is always the big day, I wanted to take photos of the parade so that meant getting over to Yonge Street to get a good spot. I thought I had one but it soon became shoulder to should, hard to position the camera at times. As you can tell, it was a learning experience for me, and a costly one. With film, I take the shot and wait till I get the photos back to see how well I did and I think I got some really good shots. I am so grateful for digital cameras but I still love my old Roliflex SLR.
Some of the people in the parade were politicians of the day. Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman was in the parade but I didn’t get a great shot of him because others were shooting him with water guns and I didn’t want to ruin my camera. It was a surprise to see June Callwood sitting on my side of the Casey House float. The Grand Marshall and former NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson’s car passed in front of me (lead pic) and I was happy he was actually looking my way. There was even an effigy of Ontario Premier Mike Harris who, like most conservatives, wouldn’t attend the parade.
One of the photos I am glad to see I had taken was the Toronto AIDS Walk contingent. Being a person living with HIV now, the photo reminds me that I was aware then of HIV and of the work being done.
Since then I have twice been able to get a media pass to film the parade for PositiveLite.com along with our editor Bob Leahy, and I’m waiting to hear if I will again this year. I was unable to go to World Pride last year due to illness, so this year I’m hoping for good health, a sunny day and maybe a nice breeze (I don’t do heat very well).
You may not notice me but I will be around taking photos for another story later. If you're going have fun, be safe and be kind to everyone.