As we kick off PRIDE Month, we recognize that Pride means a lot of different things to a lot of people and there is no one experience that defines the community. Today, we hear one of those experiences from our Managing Director, Experiential, Kevin Wagman, as he shares what PRIDE means to him and how he celebrates in Toronto, Canada.
I consider myself at this point in life to be an “OG” – Original Gay. (Really, that’s just an age thing.) And with my OG status, I’ve been afforded certain privileges over the years, which I have come to embrace.
A few privileges that come to mind include being at Toronto PRIDE in the ’90s before it was mainstream and just a handful of blocks of Church Street, watching the PRIDE flag raised at City Hall in Toronto for the first time in 1993 on the “courtesy flagpole” and finally, watching the movie Torch Song Trilogy at the Carlton Theatre back in high school – the first time I ever saw a gay content movie (though full of stereotypes) with characters and actors that were “like me”.
After 28 years of celebrating Toronto PRIDE, and having the privilege of seeing our community grow, it’s amazing how different it’s looked over the last few years. From no parades in 2020 to being fully ‘back outside’ last year, this year, I’ve reflected on what PRIDE actually means to me.
- PRIDE is about acknowledging the choice of freedom that I have. I’m privileged to live in Toronto, a city that celebrates our history and preserves our landmarks, even if just recently
- PRIDE is about being able to wear whatever I like and not be judged for it – including very short shorts and very tight Ts (in the ’90s, at least). Fashion is such an integral part of queer culture, whether it’s in the form of drag, camp fashion or gender-fluid clothing. In the words of Ru Paul “we’re all born naked and the rest is just drag”
- PRIDE is about family, not just the ones you’re born into, but the family that you choose – my friends who love me unconditionally (and ok, let’s be honest, sometimes with conditions). Our chosen family are the community that rejoices with and for you – especially in those times we’ve had to hide who we are
- PRIDE is about acknowledging that while we revel in recent medical vaccine breakthroughs, every year more people around the globe – including my friends – continue to contract HIV, and worse, are stigmatized for it despite leading perfectly normal lives
- PRIDE is about recognizing that identities are constantly evolving and there’s always room for more. I used to belong to the LGB community which is now the 2SLGBTQI+ community and hey – the more the merrier. It’s about realizing that there is space for everyone on this colourful spectrum and no one experience is taking away from another
Right now, the community is going through a tough time around the world. We’re seeing growing intolerance and bigotry, even with something as simple as PRIDE decorations. So I understand if ‘privilege’ isn’t a word that immediately comes to mind for many this month. But we can’t forget how far we’ve come and to celebrate the strides the community has made – and it’s made MANY. So this OG feels privileged.
However you choose to celebrate, have a fabulous PRIDE month!