Toronto ushered in World Pride on Friday June 20th 2014 with music and fireworks at City Hall that ended at 11 p.m. and thousands and thousands of happy, shiny people filed out of the square in an orderly fashion, smiling all the way.
Over the course of World Pride Week, the city closed off a chunk of Church Street – aka the ghetto — for the weekend and on the Sunday we decided to go down to what we heard was an afternoon street party.
Before the party, however, was seriousness. Our first stop was the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Park. A walk through the sculptures, with memories, smiles and and tears; names to touch, names carved into steel plates, names of friends and family.
We walked slowly out of the memorial and sat down for a bit. Feeling the loss and the absences. After a while, we left the park to continue walking down Church Street.
In no time at all our magpie attention was grabbed by a display window of a hardware store by what looked like ceramic espresso cups with graffiti graphics. Just what a Monday morning espresso demands. The tattooed sales guy, told us they were plastic. Boo. We talked about the evils of plastic which got us to how gauche it is to drink from mason jars, and nodding sagely, we agreed some trends in restaurants are dumb and then waved bye-bye to the hardware store guy and kept walking.
Without cars, Church Street was becoming crowded with an assortment of straight and LGBTTQQISetc people — with dogs and/or kids, or pregnant with kids, or walking with puppies, or looking like they were looking for dogs or kids.
At the crossroads of Church and Wellesley streets, just at the east side, was a stage. Some old-school disco music was playing. We stopped at the edge of a group of maybe 100 people. On stage was a young drag queen, dressed in a rather tasteful dress, lip-synching to the song, wobbling around (perhaps it was new-style dance?) on CFM high heels. It might well have been her first day on stage.
I watched people join the crowd, watched them watching the drag queen and as I did a slight shiver crawled through my body. There was something wrong with this picture. I took a deep breath and lowered my gaze to the ground — I wanted to feel what was happening or better understand what I was witnessing here at the corner of Church and Wellesley in Toronto. It felt that I was witnessing an earth-shattering, the-world-will-never-be-the-same-again moment and I wanted, needed, to articulate it for myself so that I didn’t lose it. I breathed and settled in my body and looked around: young well-dressed drag queen, lip-synching, wobbling. Crowd watching, music blaring. I waited. And waited and oh my goddess that was it! Not a single person was dancing.
I had to get away, clear my head…
We walked to the end of where Church Street was blocked off and just hung out for a while. Then we headed back up the street. We got closer to that stage and as we did we heard different disco music, a different drag queen. One with a loud voice, asking people where they were from. As people responded, she repeated it for the crowd.
“Oh honey, you from Ohio? I could O-HI-O you anytime. MMMhhhmmm,” which was followed by a few words I cannot repeat in polite company.
The music was blaring and we stopped again at the edge of the crowd and as I looked around I could not see a single person was dancing. We moved through the crowd. Not a single, solitary person was tapping a finger or toe, or moving a body part in time or rhythm to the music. I could not attribute the lack of affect down to the age of people — there were former disco-era people in the crowd.
Once upon a time, put on any kind of music where a rhythm or beat could be discerned around us LGBTTQQISetc., people and there would be dancing: dancing on the spot, dancing of fingers or toes, head movements, legs and hips keeping time, or jumping, bumping, or full on body dancing in place or around the room. We danced! We danced in protest. We danced to get the emotional crap out of our bodies. We danced to meet and greet. We danced and danced and danced if only in our imaginations that linked to our toes in our shoes. Dance is part of our tribal heritage, our secret code, our language, our culture. (Unless of course you were of the .alt queer community that frowned on any sort of fun and frivolity, or the other .alt sort that was only LGBTQQISect when naked….)
What was happening here at the corner of Church and Wellesley?
An era has ended. A cultural group has changed its ways. The way of the world that I know is gone.
We’re mainstreamed. We’re just like everyone else in the eyes of the law and we’re being absorbed into everything else — a demographic group to market to, go to bed early on a school night, wonder who to ask to the prom, misbehave at the office party and now, NOW, thanks to legal acceptance, we are destined to dance only on special occasions: LGBTQQISect school club, soc hops, on hunting-for-love expeditions, boat cruises, weddings and Pride Day. We have now officially become exactly like straight people. We don’t dance to the music…
Don’t let that happen! If you are anywhere on the LGBTTQQISetc spectrum, the next time you hear music, even if it’s in front of a stage with novice and brave drag queens, for the Goddess’ sake, dance out loud!