As more and more countries/societies come to accept - and to acknowledge - sexual minorities, Gay Pride Festivals are cropping up in more and more communities (at least they are in Europe and North America). Now there are international celebrations in various cities. This year - 2014 - Toronto, Canada was chosen to be the host of World Pride and our local media carried/printed reports about the preparations.
The first official event each year is the raising of the Rainbow flag at City Hall. Usually there is a gathering of a few hundred people up by the flag pole which is on a raised level above the plaza known as Nathan Phillip Square. Because of it being World Pride the ceremony was moved down to the square and thousands of people showed up to watch the ceremony (the crowd was so big that huge TV screens were mounted so that everybody present could watch and listen to the ceremony) It began with some of the Port Credit Indian Band ('First Nation') doing celebratory dances on a platform which was placed on top of the reflecting pool which lies near Queen Street on the south side of the plaza. So that all could watch, those of us away from the pool looked up at the huge TV monitors. Thanks to a summer spent in a First Nation community - on the B.C. coast and described in the blog titled 'Namu' - I am always moved while watching our First Nations peoples involved in their dances.
During the following two weeks until Gay Pride Day I noticed more and more 'strangers' on Church Street in the 'Gay Village' celebrating with the rest of us. As Canada is one of the first nations to have legalized same gender marriages - while many other jurisdictions have not - couples who wished to be married to their partners registered and the mass wedding ceremony was carried out at Casa Loma (a castle like structure - which was erected during the 19th century - on the hillside northwest of the downtown area) on Thursday evening.
By Friday evening motor vehicle traffic along Church Street was blocked off and that route became a seven or eight block stroll. Some booths were already erected with the balance being raised on Saturday. Not only were these booths erected along Church but along all of the side streets - between Church and Yonge Street (Toronto's main north/south thoroughfare) - as well.
The 'Gay Village' ends at Carlton Street. There are businesses on Carlton with a fair sized parking lot behind those near the northeast corner of Church and Carlton. In that parking lot a stage was erected and that is where the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto had the Sunday morning service which was well attended. I am posting a photo of myself - which was taken by a Jamaican friend - at that spot.
After the service there was a scramble for some brunch (at which a 'stranger' approached me while speaking my name - he had lived in Vancouver for a short while in the 1980s and attended the Sunday service at MCC Vancouver where I was the Pastor). Indeed it is a 'small world'!
Now for the Parade!
Again I walked with PFLAG (Parents/Friends of Lesbians and Gays) covering the shirt which you see in the above photo with another which is dark purple in color and has the PFLAG/Toronto logo on the front).
The Parade was HUGE and took a few hours to pass by. The PFLAG unit was towards the back. The walk must have been about two miles (from Bloor Street East at Jarvis Street down to the Dundas Square which is across the street from the Eaton Center). There were thousands and thousands of spectators along the route. One of the women who walked with us had purchased bags and bags of candies - all wrapped in paper like toffees are - and I had some in my hands to pass out to some of the many many people who were watching us. Many of the folk watching us pass by gave the candies to children who were standing nearby but there were some greedy folk in the crowd who aggressively held out their hands over the heads of children and did not share but pocketed the sweets. That always bugs me!
As usual I was exhausted at the end of the parade but had to retrace nearly all of that distance to reach my home. I did stop at my favorite coffee shop while on my way and had a 'cup of java' as a 'pick-me-up'.
Tired but thrilled by the experience - as I am always!