The Pride celebrations came to a close on Sunday with the Pride Parade, a four-hour-long spectacle spanning the downtown core and concluding in the Village. Community groups and big-business sponsors alike marched through the streets, and the tension between Pride’s grassroots commitments and corporate ties was palpable.
Gay swimming club À Contre-Courant sashayed down the street in their Speedoes, proving that, yes, swimmers do have the best bodies. Alcoholic energy drink company Mojo drove in the Parade in a branded SUV that didn’t really seem particularly gay, but felt purely like an advertising opportunity. Even the Musée des Beaux Arts had a contingent of workers dressed in Jean Paul Gaultier sailor stripes; the designer’s influence appears to be everywhere across the festival circuit this summer.
By the end of the Pride Parade it was obvious that the community groups marching finished first in authenticity, and that the corporate sponsors were struggling to move beyond the idea of the event as a bunch of consumers lined up on the streets. But the question stands – how are we supposed to get the spectacular Pride we want, with the big budget that only corporations can provide?
Pride did give much needed exposure to smaller community groups who provide vital services to the city’s gay population. Radio station CKUT’s presence reminded us that radio is still a relevant medium for social activism. Health group Rézo Santé marched with a large cohort of its volunteers. A peek at their website later informed me that they offer a constellation of free and confidential health consulting services, from tests to discussions to “I just need to talk to someone.” Well, their flashy t-shirts and enthusiasm in the parade got me to check out their website. That’s pretty effective marketing if I’ve ever seen it.
The festivities culminated at the T-Dance, an all-day, all-night marathon of dancing at Place Émilie-Gamelin. There was a lot of bare skin – and even more bear skin – to be seen, proving that all shapes and sizes are welcome at Pride. Circuit DJs pumped out the latest in House/Top 40 remixes, with standout DJ Erez Bi from Tel Aviv stealing the show with an inaugural Canadian performance of lively electronica.
This year’s Pride celebrations left us all a little stunned, and it wasn’t from the recreational drugs. It was from how one festival can singlehandedly unite an entire cross section of the city and beyond, from global corporations to small non-profits, to A-List DJ’s from Tel Aviv and anybody willing to let it all hang out and just have a good time.