With my spouse away on a business trip and all my friends otherwise occupied, I spent Montreal Pride weekend alone this year. I wondered the village yesterday afternoon taking in the "community day" ambiance and rather enjoyed it. I spoke with many people representing different organizations that support LGBT activities and people.
I particularly like this aspect of pride celebrations as it harkens back to the days of political activism when it was really daring and dangerous to come out loud and proud. Getting together in great numbers to demonstrate solidarity and support was a safe and very visual way to make our presence known. You could always count on the mainstream media to broadcast images of outrageous drag queens and leather "chapped" daddies while they snickered to each other at the anchor desk.
Today, the coverage is less sensational as our rights are enshrined in the laws of the land. However, there is a huge "but". (and I don't mean that bear's I saw this afternoon) The reality is that hate crimes against LGBT people have risen dramatically both here in liberal Canada as well as those once thought of bastions of free sex; Holland and Denmark. Seems the more acceptance we achieve the more we piss off the homophobes.
We may be allowed to be married but we still have to think twice about giving our love one a peck on the cheek in public. Before embarking on a public display of affection, one has to assess the danger quotient; what part of town are we're in, does that guy over there look like a skinhead, will the taxi driver rip us off?
Even thinking that way denotes some level of projected shame. And that is why "Pride" celebrations still matter. It matters for those of us living in a country where we are equal in the eyes of the law but still alienated in the hearts of many of our fellow Canadians. It matters that we celebrate who we are on behalf of those living in countries where being a homosexual can mean being put to death:
Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Nigeria (death penalty applies to 12 Northern provinces with Sharia law)and Somalia.
In these countries, being gay can land you in prison (and we're not talking Oz):
Algeria, Angola, Antiqua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin,Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Dominica, Eritrea, Ethiopia,Gambia, Gaza, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, India, Iraq,, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niue, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka Swaziland, Syria,, Tanzania, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkmesistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Western Samoa, Zambia,Zimbabwe
So as tired as it can seem, and as picky as we can be about whether it's smart to have one celebration or two as we have here in Montreal (a bad idea, I think), whether it's become too commercial, or too political (Queers for Palistan??? see above list) what's important is that for one week we can let loose, play campy disco tunes and wear our rainbows with pride. We can think of it as a more glamourous version of a Grey Cup tailgate party.
Two bloggers: David Badash and David Mailloux have kicked off a National Kiss-In that took place yesterday in several American Cities. Although it sounds frivolous, the intent is very commendable. when asked why they did this...
"After incidents in San Antonio, TX, El Paso, TX and Salt Lake City, UT - where different gay and lesbian couples were harassed or detained by law enforcement or other people for the simple act of kissing in a public place - we need to make a strong statement to everyone everywhere: kissing is not a bad thing, nor has it ever been. It's not vulgar or inappropriate. It's a sign of affection that is as old as time itself. And it's a beautiful thing that we share with our loved ones every single day."So, go out there and give someone you love a big uninhibited smooch. Love should never be a crime.