Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Pride Edmonton!

\It is pride week in Edmonton starting today.  It is one of my favourite times of year.  Pride is the first big summer festival here.  It is like the pot of coffee that wakes you up after a long sleep.   Winter this year was particularly brutal and that really put a damper on a lot of things so it will be a great chance to see and get back in touch with people I don't get to see very often.  Plus it is an excuse to wear short shorts and I will take that any chance I can get it!
If you are on tumblr you have probably seen or read some comments on an article about post gays or nugays.  You will read a lot of comments on what judgemental douchebags the guys interviewed come off as and how out of touch they are etc. I don't think the photos really helped with making them seem at all approachable.   Really my issue is not with them. They are all pretty young.  At that age I was an insufferable arrogant asshole (hell I probably still am now at almost 29).  Thats the arrogance of youth.  Thats part of the journey.  Thats the age range when we say stupid shit and do stupid things because we are still building a core identity for ourselves.  I would want nothing to do with 21 year old Aaron other than to tell him to smarten up and drink less.  Hopefully some of the guys featured will see how they come off and maybe take something positive from the experince.  Reaming them out all over the internet doesn't help them and it sure wont help the community.
My main issue with the article is that the basic hypothesis that it puts forth is false for 99% of the rest of the community (yes I think it is a community regardless of what some may say).
a new generation of twentysomething urban gays—my generation—has the freedom to live exactly the way we want. We have our university degrees, homes and careers. In Toronto, we’ve abandoned the Church Wellesley Village. We’re tattooed and pierced and at the helm of billion-dollar industries like fashion and television. We vacation with our boyfriends in fabulously rustic country homes that belong to our parents, who don’t mind us coming to stay as a couple. Hell, we even marry our boyfriends, if we choose to, on rooftops overlooking Queen West. Our sexual orientation is merely secondary to our place in society. 
This myopic worldview is fine when your young, well off and well educated.  Choose to see the world like that if you wish it is your right but doing so ignores the experinces  of the vast amount of people who's lives are affected by systemic societal inequality.
I was at Edmonton's Queer Prom on the weekend very briefly.  Queer Prom is a safe, supportive gathering for youth 16 to 25 who do not feel comfortable going to school events because of bullying or homophobia.  It has been growing every year attracting kids from as far away as Alaska.  This year attracted over 350 youth.  Many of these kids are at risk or living on the streets or couch surfing. Some are just regular kids from supportive families in the suburbs (these kids are the exception not the rule).
The BEEF Bear party that my buddy Daren and I organized managed to raise about 1300 bucks to go towards food for Queer Prom.  As many of these kids don't know where the next meal is coming from food is a big deal at an event like this.  We dropped by after being invited by the organizers to touch base with some of the volunteers and see how things were going.
Walking into that party was such a heartwarming experience.  Everyone was having a fantastic time smiling and dancing away.  Many of them you could tell were just taking first steps into realizing themselves and the power that accepting yourself can give you.  The tentative unbuttoning of shirts while dancing, the awkward glances they were shooting each other, the first kisses..
Life without any fear for the first time. Those moments were like a rebirth for me when I was young. It was all totally adorable.  I was so honoured to be a part of it and to be able to help out  in some small way.  I was a lucky kid.  I managed to stay closeted and finish two bachelors degrees and not kill myself while living with my parents.  I own my own home and have a wonderful partner whom I hope to marry some day and luckily we live in a place where we can.  We both also have very supportive and loving families.  As someone as lucky as I am I feel it is important to try and give back to help those who are not been as lucky as I am.

So when someone says that our sexual orientation is merely secondary to our place in society I think yes your allowed to have that opinion but please do not wash away the struggle that many are still undergoing daily to love and live as freely as you do. Not to mention it totally abandons all the sacrifice and hard work of the generations that fought for your current comfort level. I hope this "new gay" the writer is talking about isn't universally ignorant to the suffering around them.

So to this I say Happy Pride everyone! Go out and queer it up if thats your thing (or don't if you so choose) but at the very least try and do something good for someone else!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Another classic "relentless egomania" post, Aaron..kudos to you :)

Your point is well taken. So many of us haven't grown up in the "glass house" protected from all the challenges that being LGBT presents. However, is it realistic that this should entirely be the case. Many of the hardest things to overcome are related to developing a healthy self identity, and there are no shortcuts to that. Some pain (also known of "growth") will be inevitable.Them is the facts !!

This was my second year going to pride week in Edmonton (both weekends, no less..yay for me! ) had a great time in which I healed and grew even more, but just one thing I want to share that is particularly apropos to your post about Queer Prom. Similar message. different audience in the LGBT community.

I attended a pride sponsored event on Saturday: "Diversity Panel - Embracing Sexuality and Spirituality ". Perhaps the main purpose of the session was to help members of the LGBT community who have developed negative feelings about themselves from being raised or influenced by a faith tradition that didn't support them. I believe that many gay people reject organized religion because of the hostility that they have felt from that quarter. But, that often tends to lead to equating any form of spirituality to an anti-gay position. That's unfortunate, since I believe all of us need a spiritual framework to make sense of our lives and feel healthy and happy. However that can be how WE choose to define it, and doesn't require organized religion as a support, although that's always an option. So many in our community can't escape their pain, and relive it over and over thru their lives, with unhappy results.

There were representatives on the panel from 6 widely differing faith traditions, western and non-western. I was an unoffically added panel member, since I come from a Mormon (LDS) background. It was a good event. I believe all who attended, presenters and audience members alike, benefited from the wonderful tolerant exchange of ideas. Too bad the weather was so rainy, and it was a hard location to reach. These sessions are going to continue past Pride week. Hopefully, they will continue in future Prides, and attendance will grow. I felt privileged to be there.