Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Victoria Pride & searching for ass-less chaps

This was my first time marching in a Pride Parade and I was late. Finding the parade start area and seeing the colour coordinated lesbian roller-blading team and drag queens on 5 inch platform heels was a relief. Linda and I were marching with PFLAG. When we arrived, there were only 2 actual PFLAG members (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians), and one of them was in a motorized chair. Carrying the banner could be difficult.

Luckily my mom, who isn’t above recruitment, found Carlos (not real name), a gay catholic from Los Angeles who is only just out. He was not only high camp but had buttery smooth Filipino skin which made him look late 20’s (he’s 52!). I explained that we would be behind Queen Victoria in the parade, a gay guy who has been dressing in drag to greet all the Cruise Ships for at least 15 years. “Drag!?” Carlos says with touch of joyous wonder in his voice. Oh Carlos, you’re going to have fun today.

Linda and I are behind the banner holding hands and I am carrying a rainbow flag in my epee arm. Before the parade starts another PFLAG mom arrives with her three sons (one is gay) and toddler granddaughter Hayley. Along the route people come out of the crowd to join us.

As we start two female Cheer Angels (with wings) on bicycles ride up and down the parade waving their wands and urging the crowd to screams. The start of the parade is crowded and I am a little intimidated, not quite sure what I should be doing. Linda waves and smiles and occasionally we do a bit of ballroom dancing. Often we are greeted with a big cheer and cries of “PFLAG!” Because we are the only lesbian couple in the parade Linda thinks they are cheering for us. Dream on. The good thing about walking with PFLAG is no one hates you. Behind us are the gay and lesbian Seniors being driven by lesbian cyclists with bicycle cabs. Wow, are those cyclists fit; flat stomachs, healthy tans and a devil may care attitude to clothing. I have to keep reminding myself to look forward.

Coming in front of the Empress Hotel and inner harbour we hit tourist zone; the thousands of Americans who have come over during the long weekend, as well as the competitors for tomorrows Victoria to Maui sailboat race. There is no cheering here, but long and hard staring. Watch out, the gay and lesbian circus is in town! My mother, wearing her PFLAG rainbow shirt and rainbow hat had tourists gawk or pull their families away as she walked from home to the parade. “They just treat you like a ‘thing’” she explained. Of course, now I am actually starting to relax a little I flick my tongue at the tourists. Yes, it is Sodom and Gomorrah, please enjoy the music!

We wind our way by the hotels where tourists peek nervously over the balcony. “They are afraid of Gay-Ray” I explain to Carlos, “Once they get within 20 feet of us, its all over, they’re turned.” He giggles and we wave at some kids being held back by their mother who hovers in the hotel entrance. “Darn it, “ I tell Carlos, as we spot a whole family from somewhere like Ohio standing literally slack jawed, “I forgot to wear my T-shirt that says, “I recruit”.” I have promised Carlos that being his first Pride, we must find him a guy in ass-less chaps.

While Linda is waving at kids, I continue my running commentary which keeps Carlos and I laughing, “Oh look Carlos, gay central, a building site; nothing better than some hot construction workers” Seems they won’t come out to look at us, they’ve been suffering insecurity ever since the Village People.

At one corner is a woman standing, bare breasted, arms outstretched. We find out later that though she doesn’t tape the nipples, she goes topless so often that though the police have over a dozen tickets on her, they aren’t prosecuting. She is Victoria’s Topless Woman.

At the Pride fair ground, Carlos disappears, showing up a couple hours later with a guy on his arm wearing a “Welsh Boy” t-shirt. Go Carlos!

Linda and I went to the Victoria police stall and confirmed that YES there are gay hate crimes in Victoria, they simply aren’t reported (much like the several thousand strong Pride Parade, which went down the main street, round the inner harbour with day long festivities: number of pictures the next day in the Victoria Times-Colonist: Zero, total reporting of the event: Zero. Instead the main story was: A firework display).

We came armed with a notebook as we decided that we needed to meet some lesbian and gay couples and went around asking couples if they would be interested in coming over for wine/cheese or non-alcoholic/vegan-friendly get together, whatever worked for them. Sadly, the majority of lesbian couples were really not interested however we did meet some really interesting gay guys. I know that lesbians wanting to mix with gay guys is considered close to treason by some, but that’s the environment we came out into and that’s what we feel comfortable with. Right now we are just hoping to find some lesbians who are willing to join us.

Other highlights of the Pride events: Goth lesbians! Plus, all the goth, punk, fetish and other gays and lesbians getting together to dance “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!”; Someone running up to greet me because they read an article in the paper about me (I’m almost famous, milk it! Milk it!); a lesbian with taped nipples greeting me and I not being able to remember her name; standing in line for hot dog and speculating if the Beer Garden had a nudist section, people in line saying no, and a gay guy only wearing shorts turning around and saying “Vancouver has a nudist beach, I know!”; The guy serving hot dogs telling his partner, “Take that stupid flagpole and shove it somewhere!” I say, “That’s kinda rude.” And we laugh; meeting a goth lesbian, she likes my hair, I like her clothes, we talk about how great a stall of goth leather gear would be; Linda finds someone in ass-less chaps..but it’s a woman; We find a leather daddy clad only in leather shorts for Carlos.

Pride isn't complete until you've seen a few Bears, Leather Daddies, baby dykes, goth girls, diesel dykes, stone butches, girls in fairy wings, boys in fairy wings, beautiful boys in drag, old campy gay guys in drag, gay guys in leather kilts, gay guys in skin tight black t-shirts, lesbian in bikinis (including some older lesbians who seem to be making more of a political than fashion statement), kids running around with rainbows and butterflies painted on their faces, gay parents, gay seniors and a couple groups of straight girls huddled together staring around wide eyed.

Pride was hot, mildly disorganized (one gay couple told us, “I think lesbians are running everything, gay guys are too lazy”), underreported and scared the locals. So, yes, totally glad I went. The next day a police officer says hi to Linda and me, “I saw you at pride yesterday, remember.” Tell me that’s not a social improvement.


GayProf said...

I know that lesbians wanting to mix with gay guys is considered close to treason by some,

That's so sad. Does that mean we can't hang?

elizabeth said...

Um - totally fun. Thinking of booking a trip for next year around this time. How busy does this island get tourist wise??

kathz said...

Sounds marvellous and definitely an improvement in police attitudes. Glad you had such a great time.

Sfrajett said...

I love the observation that if you march with PFLAG, no one can hate you! So true.

Sober @ Sundown said...

Isn't that sad how we lesbians don't want to hang with other lesbians. It's the same way down here... very little sense of community. Gay guys seem to have a built-in attitude of "the more the merrier".

Stephanie said...

Hi Elizabeth! I met you at Pride where you gave me a "Tall Girl" mug. (Thanks!) I just discovered your blog after belatedly reading the article about you in Victoria News. I was also marching in the parade for the first time, helping to carry the Quaker banner. It is quite exhilarating to be a participant instead of just an onlooker.

As for media coverage, I was filmed in the parade by a cameraman from A-Channel, but since my rabbit ears don't pick up that station, I don't know if they actually broadcast it.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Gayprof - of course we can hang, I'd rather have true friends than be popular (of course, I like being popular too...and vain...and the centre of attention..)

Elizabeth - we get 3.6 million tourists a year - but since Pride is usually with Canada day, there are tons of fireworks, free food and other stuff that weekend - plus gay/lesbian dances.

Kathz - yeah, it seems quite different to Cardiff

Sfrajett - yeah, that's while I'm probably march with them next year - if I'm not on the roller derby team.

Clean & Sober - One gay couple we are having over was from Toronto and they said it is better in Victoria than there, where there are even two different parades - one just for lesbians. As we told one of the gay couples, "Sometimes, if there are just lesbians it can end up....serious" - this is not to say that I don't treasure lesbian friendsship - I really do - but there is something wonderfully Winnie-the-pooh about a gay guy getting excited about Eurovision, or wanting to build a gay retirement home, with nightly musicals.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Hi Stephanie - I love the tank top I bought off of you - You might want to check out Kathz who is a quaker fencer - I don't have a TV so I can't verify about A-channel - still what is the deal with the Times Colonist?

Stephanie said...

Elizabeth - different person. I was the one wearing a blue top and tan skirt.

Times-Colonist? It's a joke. I boycott all Canwest media. They're useless.

elizabeth said...

Free food you say? Count me in. (I was in Victoria in March you know - didn't see you there lol)
There were these people playing these gigantic wooden instruments on the main street down nearish the bay - very loud and really awesome.