On Sunday, July 28, the London Pride Parade celebrated its 25th anniversary with the largest parade yet, both in terms of the number of floats and crowds there to watch and celebrate.
For my nieces and nephews, it was their second year watching the parade. This year, with their parents busy, I took them on my own. Being the only adult with them, I found it easier to see Pride through their eyes.
And it was pretty great.
To the kids, the Pride Festival, and especially the parade, is about excitement and fun. They talk about what they’re going to wear for weeks in advance. They pick out tattoos and stickers to add to their outfits. They vote on their favourite float and enjoy the free candy they get as floats go by.
To me, it’s crucial to keep Pride fun to encourage them to participate. With sex education in Ontario reverting to more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach instead of an open, inclusive approach, it’s more important than ever that they experience and have opportunities to learn about LGBTQ2S+ people and perspectives.
Pride is also an opportunity to let kids know that they are loved and accepted no matter what and that they should treat everyone that way.
Why Does Pride Matter?
Research shows the LGBTQ2S+ people are more likely to experience discrimination and be targets of sexual and physical assault, harassment and hate crimes across their life span. And LGBTQ2S+ youth face 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. These are just some of the reasons Pride celebrations matter.
As we got ready for the parade, I asked each of them – why do you think Pride is important?
“Pride’s important because it means that it’s okay to be gay or a lesbian or transgender and if you don’t tell people it’s okay (to be LGBTQ2S+), things won’t change and people won’t be accepted.”
“Pride matters because it means you can just be yourself.”
“Pride shows that it’s okay to marry a boy or marry a girl and be whoever you are.”
An Opportunity To Have A Conversation
As the different floats and marchers in the parade went by and the kids read their signs or saw different costumes and outfits, they asked questions, and they were encouraged to keep asking them.
“I didn’t know you could get arrested for being gay,” one of them said, confused and horrified after reading a marcher’s sign. I explain that it’s no longer illegal in Canada, but it is in other places, and that LGBTQ2S+ people still face discrimination across the world, including in Canada. “That doesn’t make sense to me,” they respond, filling my heart with hope and reminding me that hate is taught.
Questions kept coming. What’s human trafficking? Why would people be for sale? What does the 2 in LGBTQS2+ represent? How do you know if you’re LGBT? What does a bank have to do with Pride? What’s does it mean to be transgender? Each one represents a learning opportunity.
Pride is a marathon, not a sprint, especially with kids. As we hit the hour mark, the restlessness sets in.
Water and snacks make it easier to get through, but it’s still long for their attention spans. All the kids agreed that their least favourite part of Pride was “standing and waiting because your feet hurt.”
The Meaning Of Pride
As we made our way home after the parade, we discussed the different meanings of Pride. Each of them gave their own definition of Pride.
“Pride means that you should be proud of who you are, no matter what anyone else says.”
“Pride means it’s okay not to be like everybody else.”
“Pride means peace, love, and being proud. It means to be good with who you are.”
The Best Part
What did the kids think the best part of the parade was?
“Watching all the floats, how people make them, and how creative people are. And when all the cute dogs walked by.”
“I like seeing the floats, and all the different kinds of floats and all of them are different, so they’re nice to look at. My favourite was the white unicorn float cause it was really pretty.”
No matter what they like best, they all agree – they can’t wait for the 26th annual parade next year!
Feature photo by Laura Thorne