TORONTO – On Sunday, June 30th, Gen X Bears Toronto made our debut at Toronto Annual Gay Pride Parade. Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. It is the third largest pride celebrations in the world after New York, and Sidney, Australia. It’s estimated that over a million people attend the parade each year. The theme for this year’s parade was Uncensored.
In order for us to reach our goal we had to set up a committee at least two months before the actual event. Anita Parker-Laite, who one of the organizers for the pride parade was very supported. She provided us with the necessary funds, materials on how to build a float, and sound advises. We received about 1400$ from the Pride Committee. We raised funds through a couple of different ways. On May 18th, we held a potluck bar-b-que over at Kyle Andrews’s house, our fund raising coordinator. Everyone brought their own food and gave some donations for Pride. In the end we raised about 100$ from the bar-b-que. Than on May 31st we held a bar night at the Toolbox were we raised more money through a 50/50 draw, a raffle, and as a bonus entertainment the “Bear Necessities” show: a seductive strip tease show put on by some of our members. From that night we raised about 500$. We got additional help from the PRIDE Committee who kicked in about 1400$. In the end, we had close to 2000$. Pretty good for a group starting out with zero funds!!!
The next thing was planning out what to do. At first we wanted to do a float, but we backed out because we decided to stick closely with the KISS Principal (keep It Simple, Stupid!!) Besides putting a float together in the later stages would have proven too costly. Instead we decided to march, and concentrate our efforts on the booth, and on the marchers. We brought decorations and supplies for our booth; ordered T-shirts and hats for our members, and made craftwork to be sold. For the marchers we made sure we brought enough light snacks and water so that our marchers would be well nourished. We order a banner so as to advertise our group. We also brought some glitter and body paint to allow our marchers to stand out from the other marchers by making them fabulous!! We also ordered a banner The T-shirts, ball caps, and the craftwork helped cover the cost of our pride celebrations.
The day itself was pretty hectic. We had about 20 people marching with us. We were paired with another bear group, Bear Buddies Toronto. The parade route ran along Yonge St. down towards Dundas St. All participants waited along Bloor. It was at least several city blocks long. We were number fifty-eight out of about 200 marching groups and floats. What didn’t help was the heat. The parade was delayed by one hour because a few onlookers succumbed to heat exhaustion. Even when the parade did start we had to anxiously wait at least a half hour for the other groups and floats to move on.
But once it got, everyone got into the spirit of things. At first, we all were concerned about Brain Kearns, our web Coordinator, because he was wearing on a heavy bear costume in the heat. But we soon realized that he was all right. He basically sat in the shade, drank a lot of water, had a mini fan going on in the costume, and had people take off his head once in a while to make sure that he got plenty of water and air. But once the parade started, Brian was off and running, greeting spectators along the way, and dancing around in the streets. In fact, Brain was a huge hit with the crowd, with several spectators posing with him for pictures!!! We had about 20 people marching with us. Nothing prepared for us the reception we got when we turned down Yonge St. Seeing several thousands people cheer you on, brings a sense of joy of being accepted for who you are, have others support you, and to march along side your chosen “family” with dignity and respect. A lot of us just got caught up with the euphoria. We danced in the streets, and yelled out our chant till our voices went horse to the thrill of onlookers.
Some members stayed behind and helped out at the booth. David Greenwin, helped coordinate our volunteers. They worked diligently to give out information about our group accompanied with candy and condoms (Hmm candy). Our ball caps were a major hit with most people, and we ended up selling them all out. The booth proved to be very successful, allowing us to make several new contacts, and to meet up with old and make new friends. Even some members of Bear Buddies, an older bear group also based in Toronto, came over from their booth to congratulate us for our efforts as a first year group.
It was a very successful day for us. Not only did it allow us to get exposure, but also it was an emotional boost for most of our members. For many of them participating this was their first PRIDE ever!!
Looking back now, pride made me think about this:
“Whenever a Queer person comes out of the closet, he/she discovers true freedom and happiness because they choose to live a life uncensored. Not bound by peer pressure nor social prejudice nor fear, but take pride in who they are everyday.”
I strongly encourage other bear groups, especially Gen X Bears to get involve in PRIDE in their areas. Believe me it is well worth it!
Gen X Bears Toronto