What started as a protest march in 1978 is now a major celebration and a huge tourism draw. The first Sunday in August, the Vancouver Pride Parade brings an estimated 600,000 people to the West End to celebrate the city’s large and vibrant gay and lesbian community. It’s always a great show.
Yesterday’s edition was the first KJ and I attended here since 2008. It’s one of the things we have missed about Vancouver in the years we’ve been away, so we’d been looking forward to the Pride Parade ever since we moved back.
Ian was pretty excited, too – but he was just in it for the candy. A lot of candy was thrown his way at the Pride Parade in Victoria last year.
The first highlight of this year’s parade was Vancouver’s own Jenna Talackova. Jenna became famous earlier this year when she successfully battled to be included in the Miss Universe Canada pageant after originally being disqualified because she is transgendered.
Shortly after Jenna, one of the perennial crowd pleasers of the Pride Parade came along.
Every year, two entries are consistently the most entertaining, in my opinion. Dykes on Bikes is one of them – and, you guessed it, they’re a bunch of lesbians riding motorbikes.
You hear them coming well before you see them, but as soon as they pull into view the crowd goes nuts. They’re just really good fun. I wanted to include a video, but I’m apparently not set up for that. For now, a picture will have to suffice. Video of Dykes on Bikes is at http://youtu.be/PP9CRNa3f5M
Now, since the days of the original protest march back in 1978, Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community has made some serious progress. Getting fired for being gay is no longer on, being denied an apartment is also out, and for some years now, gays and lesbians have enjoyed the right to get married – just like everybody else. A mixed blessing that last one, perhaps…
Anyways, the area of the West End called Davie Village, which centres on Davie Street, is a thriving section of the city where a great many businesses have rainbow flag stickers in their windows to show they are gay friendly. And a great many of these businesses also had entries in the parade.
In fact, early into the parade yesterday, I started to wonder if there was any major business or institution which did not have an entry in the parade.
There were the first responders:
All sorts of other groups were there, too:
These are only a few of the groups we saw in the Pride Parade yesterday. And we only stayed for half of it, because it was so damn hot and Ian was starting to wilt. This gives you an idea of the liveliness of the gay and lesbian community, though.
An indication of the clout it now enjoys can be seen in the number of big companies which had entries in the parade:
The three major TV networks were represented:
Plenty of other companies were there, including two inspired entries from the good folks at Trojan Condoms and Viagra:
Probably the best indication of how far the gay and lesbian community has come, though, is the fact that almost every political party from all levels of government made a point of being in the Pride Parade.
The BC Liberals, the BC NDP/Canada’s New Democrats, the Green Party, the Conservative Party of Canada were all there. And so was Dr. Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for the host riding of Vancouver Centre – who, along with Dykes on Bikes, is one of the perennial crowd pleasers I mentioned earlier.
Full disclosure here: I worked on Hedy’s re-election campaign in the 2006 federal election. And I’ll tell you what, you have not worked hard until you have worked for Hedy.
While Hedy makes her people work hard, she also works hard herself. She provides excellent service to her constituents and is one of the best friends the gay and lesbian community has. She was a strong advocate for same-sex marriage before it became legal.
Hedy is very popular with the gay community, and she clearly loves them back. Every year, she has one of the most imaginative and fun entries in the Pride Parade.
This year, she was a mermaid. Video of Hedy the Mermaid and her entourage of sailors is here: http://tinyurl.com/bmt7dt2
Now, every year when the Pride Parade rolls around, a few folks start griping. “Why do we need a Gay Pride Parade?” is one of the things you’ll hear. “We don’t have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.”
Well, it seems to me the folks who say such things are actually making the case for holding the Pride Parade. There are no Heterosexual Pride Parades because such parades are absolutely unnecessary.
I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where heterosexuals are murdered because they are sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender. Or where they are disowned by their families because of this. Or refused a job. Or fired from one. Or refused an apartment. Or beaten.
Gays and lesbians in Vancouver have moved beyond this for the most part. They have struggled for this and, in the process, helped Vancouverites reach a point where most of us couldn’t give a damn who anybody else sleeps with and where almost nobody bats an eye when they see a couple of guys, or a couple of women, holding hands or kissing.
But the fact is that this is a pretty unusual state of affairs. In most parts of the world – even some parts of B.C., unfortunately – gays and lesbians cannot live with anywhere near the level of freedom and safety enjoyed by the gay and lesbian community in Vancouver. And forget about holding a Pride Parade in a lot of these places.
Until gays and lesbians are fully accepted everywhere, and until Pride Parades can be held everywhere, Vancouver’s Pride Parade will continue to be not just a good time but a moral imperative.
P.S. – We – and by “we” I mean my son Ian – only found one fault with this year’s Pride Parade: not enough candy. Ian got lots of temporary tattoos, stickers, buttons and whatnot. But only one packet of Skittles. As far as he’s concerned, Victoria’s Pride Parade wins.