Not any more

Gay pride parade casts rainbow over Montreal

In Canada on August 16, 2010 at 08:24

MONTREAL – Everyone wanted to be part of the gay pride parade Sunday but the crowd.

Thousands lined René Lévesque Blvd. for the celebration of the city’s LGBT community in its 2010 migration up from the Gay Village to the heart of downtown Montreal. The reception was curious and friendly, but given the joyous flamboyance of the participants, comparatively reserved.

The balloon went up at the corner of Guy St. just after 1 p.m. and proceeded east under threatening skies 2.3 kilometres to Sanguinet St., whereupon parties were to rule until the wee small hours of the morning.

As the sidewalks filled in the minutes before the first float rolled out, Penny Droukas and Sandra Woo found a prime spot, the better to see the carnival and line dancers, gay bikers, gay trade unionists, parents, bankers, farmers, Jews, queer supporters of Palestine, selfless volunteers and local politicians of unspecified sexual orientation.

“I haven’t been in a long while because I’ve been out of town,” said Woo, who travelled from St. Laurent for the occasion. “It’s so much fun. It’s more than just people walking around. How could I say no?"

“We both have gay friends and colleagues,” Droukas added. "They’re just like us, the best friends to have.”

While others were waiting to get the party started, parade organizers gathered under the landmark circular room of the Maritime Hotel at Guy and René Lévesque to welcome dignitaries and thank sponsors and staff.

Among those in attendance were political players such as Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Louise Harel, Kathleen Weil, Thomas Mulcair, former astronaut Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau in faded jeans, flip-flops and a blue gingham shirt.

Trudeau issued the obligatory political sound bite – “to be gay is to be able to participate fully in the life of Canada, but there are pockets of resistance. There is still work to be done” – before lightening up. “I must have lost 20 pounds last year dancing in the heat. I’m wearing less this time, and I’m going to have even more fun.”

Ron Schlitter is making his third trip to town from his native Washington, D.C. “I just love it here,” he said, though he did admit escaping the “miserable D.C. heat and humidity” was a factor.

“I know there has been some controversary about moving the parade out of the ghetto and out into the general community, but I think it’s a great idea. It’s more inclusive.”

His friend Alexander Moreno agreed. Moreno is a PhD student from Columbia studying at the Université de Montréal. “I’ve been to the gay pride parade in Columbia many times, but this is my first here. I’m noticing more diversity. Age doesn’t matter. It’s more multi-cultural.

There was certainly a mixed bag gathered for what is sometimes called the city’s most purely enjoyable parade. There were kids in strollers, seniors riding motorized wheelchairs and one very small person having a diaper changed on the sidewalk.

Enterprising individuals sold ice cream and gay pride flags – “$3, deux pour $5” – while others raised funds for flood relief in Pakistan. A napping golden retriever in beautifully refurbished Dominion Square paid no attention to any of them.

In keeping with this year’s superhero parade theme, there was Wonder Woman in full regalia.

Also known as Gillian Lapedus, a Toronto native who has just wrapped her second degree at McGill, she was part of the Quebec Jewish Congress float. “It’s important the community have a public face in an event like this,” she explained. “It’s also a lot of fun and a lot of dancing.”

Kristine Gorina and Kaspars Zalitis have been honorary Pride Celebrations vice-presidents this year. They come from Latvia, where the gay movement still faces much opposition.

“I can’t believe it,” said Zalitis, looking at two young cops on bicycles with shiny green Mardi Gras necklaces wrapped around their handlebars. “Even the police are smiling here. Ours are on horseback.”

Gorina sounded a more sobering note to our gay community and the city at large. “Yours is a privilege many nations do not have. Guard it carefully. It’s very hard to win and so easy to lose.”

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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