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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Love Is Love

The bounty from Victoria's Pride Parade, 2018
In the late 70's I took a trip to San Francisco by myself.

Truth be known, I was following someone there, otherwise I would never have traveled so far alone back then.

That's another story, but you can find out all about about my friend Ted here.

On the last day of my trip, I took a bus from where I was staying into downtown San Francisco because I had booked a seat on the Amtrak back to Vancouver. What I didn't realize was that there was a parade happening downtown that very day. A kind of parade I would never even have imagined at that point in time. There were a lot of people dressed in strange costumes, lots of oiled, tanned men dancing on floats. Strange characters handing out odd tokens to the onlookers. On one float, the men threw out coins, one of which I snagged. It had a logo and the words "Bulldog Massage Parlor" etched into it. I hung onto it for years.

At one point when I was standing there, I heard a very deep voice say hello behind me. I turned around, and looked up. It was a black transvestite, in sequins, on roller skates, handing out pamphlets. I just stared up at this creature, the likes of which I had never seen before. I'm sure he thought *I* was the odd one...

It was an unabashedly happy occasion, people laughed and yelled out and sang and danced in the streets. And I'll never forget it. As it turned out, this was my first pride parade. I just didn't know what that was at the time.

Today, my husband and I made the trek to downtown Victoria to attend the 2018 Victoria Pride Parade, something which has been happening here for the past 25 years. And as the first floats and performers walked past us, we both got a little teary eyed. For me, there were many things that brought those tears. I was thinking about my Uncle Roy, a gay, Danish man who killed himself during the second World War because he was afraid of being thrown into a concentration camp for homosexuals by the German soldiers who occupied Denmark. I was thinking about my friend Lynn who came out to me in high school, but had to keep her secret from almost everyone else back then. I was thinking about my friend Ted, the man I mentioned above, who died of AIDS.

But our tears turned to laughter and applause, watching so many people expressing their joy at being themselves. The costumes were just as bright and crazy, the music and laughter still as loud as it was at that first parade 40 years ago. They handed out colourful beads, lots of candy, Pride stickers, colouring books and postcards. And condoms. Lots of condoms.

One young woman came straight to me and handed me a little plastic bottle labeled "Pride". "Sunscreen!" she exclaimed, seeing my bare arms turning a little pink. "Thought you might need some!" She laughed and rejoined her parade group. And as we were leaving, a little girl who was walking with her Dad as part of the parade, handed me a yellow lollipop. "Happy Pride!" she smiled.

We've come a long way in 40 years. There are still issues to deal with, people with narrow minds and oppressive cultures. Perhaps one day we will have come so far that there really won't be any need for Pride Parades, but I kind of hope they never stop.

Happy Pride Day!