Saturday, June 3, 2017

Happy Pride Month from @NathanBurgoine

It's possible even our LEGO collection celebrates Pride.

It's Pride. Let me tell a story.

I'm not sure I can put words to the way I felt at my first Pride. I'd been out for months by that point, and they'd been frightening months of scrambling for a place to live, figuring out how I was going to support myself, and had included a lot of couch surfing and relying on new friends. By the time Ottawa's parade and festival rolled around (which is actually later than June), I could breathe. I wasn't putting out fires in my life, I was starting to live my life. Sure, I was scrambling with multiple jobs and trying to figure out if I could afford to go back to school any time soon, but I was as stable as I'd been in over a year.

So some friends demanded I told my jobs I needed the one day off—something I never did, as I needed whatever hours I could get—and we went to the parade.

Ottawa is not a huge city, despite being the nation's capital, and yet that year, the parade seemed like so many people. There were drag queens (they gave me beads), and Ottawa's leather group. There were proud gay dads, and dykes on bikes (they let me ride pillion). There was a church group welcoming new members, and student groups, and a trans rights group (they painted my face for me), and some of the local businesses that were queer friendly or queer owned. Local health services were handing out condoms, the chat lines (remember those?) were handing out magnets, and the float for the local gay bar had dancers on it in tight little briefs (and throwing more condoms to the crowd).

The parade moved through the streets, and I walked with my friends and saw people cheering and applauding on corner after corner. There were so many queer people around, and so much support, and it was an incredible day that made something very real to me: I was not alone.

There were protestors, of course. There always are. But those few scattered groups of people with their terrible signs (seriously, the kerning alone!) were just that: few and scattered. Their voices were small. We were louder in our pride than they could be in their hate, and that was magic.

By the end of my first Pride, I was exhausted. I'd walked in the parade with friends, enjoyed the fair that came after, gotten sunburned, gone dancing anyway, and crawled into bed with a stupid grin on my face and without wiping off the various rainbow stripes of make-up that had been applied there. I ruined a pillow-case. I didn't care.

And though the world went back to the way it had always been the next day, I didn't. I was different. I'd seen the crowd of queer people. I'd marched with them. They were there, in the city, just like me, and even if day to day it wasn't clear we existed and the only voices that ever mentioned us seemed to be against us, I knew. We weren't alone.

Every Pride I remind myself there's someone meeting all the rest of us for the first time. Every time I get to speak in public somewhere, I'm conscious that I might very well be someone's "first" queer. I've had it happen, and there's something so incredibly humbling about having someone stop to talk to you and say some version of "I just wanted to say thank you. I've never seen myself before."

I remember my own first person, the one I said it to myself.

A far more recent Pride party.

Those firsts happen over and over. The first time you see a "you" on television, or in a movie. The first time you overhear someone casually mentioning their boyfriend or girlfriend (or, happily, these days, their husband or wife). The first time someone comes out to you (an honour I always cherish). Or, of course, the first time you see a "you" in a book. It's incredible.

Pride is so many things. It's a celebration, but it's a protest. It's a party, and it's political. It's evolving—it's always, always evolving—to include more groups and intersections as we grow and understand more about human sexuality and gender. Every year, I see these changes and can't help but imagine how incredible it must feel for a young ace or an enby to see themselves. Or...

Well, the "or"s go on and on. That's the point. So do we.

We raise a flag. We raise many flags. Our stories aren't inherited: queer kids aren't usually born to queer parents and queer grandparents. We pop up all over the place, and often no one knows. We don't hear the stories of the generations who came before us the way other people do with their own histories. That's why our books, and our parades, and our groups, and our movies, and every other storytelling piece we can get our hands on matter so much.

It's Pride. Go tell a story.


On the topic of stories told about Pride, my very first novel, way back when, takes place during Ottawa Pride. It's called Light.

Kieran Quinn is a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay—three things that have gotten him through life perfectly well so far—but when self-styled prophet Wyatt Jackson arrives during Pride Week, things take a violent turn.  
Kieran's powers are somewhat underwhelming but do have a habit of refracting light into spectacular rainbows for him to hide behind. Even so, it's not long before Kieran is struggling to maintain his own anonymity while battling wits with a handsome cop, getting some flirting in with a hunky leather man, saving some drag queens, and escaping the worst blind date in history. It's enough to make a fledgling hero want to give up before he even begins.  
One thing's for sure: saving the day has never been so fabulous.

No comments:

Post a Comment