By Vera C. Teschow
I’ll be honest, “Gay Pride” is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of P.E.I. As an LGBTQ Ontarian who spends several weeks on the Island both alone and with my family each year, I relish the opportunity to escape the chaos of my tiny Toronto apartment, and unwind in the relative calm of our north shore home on P.E.I.
But until now, I’ve never been here at the same time that Pride P.E.I. is held and so I’ve never attended a pride event on the Island.
To be quite frank, I probably held a bit of prejudice towards Islanders as somewhat homophobic, although I will admit my family has never personally experienced homophobia in our five years on the Island, and we’ve even made some gay friends here over the past few. I guess it’s just a stereotype I never really questioned.
This year, both my girlfriend and my children are on P.E.I. with me during Pride Week so we decided to check out a few events.
First we attended the flag raising at Charlottetown’s City Hall last Monday at noon, before picking my kids up from the airport.
Compared to Toronto’s World Pride kickoff attended by tens of thousands in Ontario’s capital last month, I will confess that the Charlottetown counterpart was a little, well, tinier. On the other hand, I was struck by how friendly and personable the few in attendance here were. Members of all three levels of government were present, and addressed most of the locals there by name. They also came over and welcomed those of us visiting from away with a warm smile and a firm handshake.
Did I mention the mayor was in attendance? Now, there’s something you don’t see in Toronto these days (cringe).
Since my 10-year-old twins arrived on Monday night, our next stop was a mid-week, family pride cupcake-decorating event at the Atlantic Superstore (wait, they have corporate sponsors out here? Now that doesn’t align with my stereotype of P.E.I. homophobia at all!)
The kids took great pleasure in slopping as much rainbow-themed icing and candy toppings as they possibly could cram onto a cupcake and shoving it into their mouths, while my partner and I enjoyed meeting and chatting with others from our “community”. (Okay, yes, I also enjoyed jamming a fully loaded cupcake into my mouth. Two cupcakes, actually. Adorned with gummy bears and rainbow sprinkles.)
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On Wednesday afternoon, the kids and I stopped by a outdoor trans advocacy speech on medical rights, which afforded a lovely opportunity for an in-depth chat with my inquisitive and open-minded boys about human rights in Canada in general, and LGBTQ rights in particular. Later that evening, we all met some friends downtown at the Pride coffee house at Beanz. In contrast to the wild, boozy, adults-only parties that tend to dominate Toronto pride evening events, the coffee house offered an intimate kitchen party feel with a queer twist.
For those who enjoy a more “traditional” pride event, there was also a youth dance and an all-night gala as part of the pride week festivities here on the island, held later in the week.
I did enjoy being surrounded by two million LGBTQ friends and allies on the streets of Toronto for 10 days last month; the spectacle is really something to behold, and offers those who are often marginalized in their local communities a real sense of “normalcy”. Sprinkled with a healthy dose of political marches and private and public conferences featuring international speakers, the large Toronto event also maintains an emphasis on global social justice. Nevertheless, as a summer Islander and a parent, I must say I am enjoying the smaller, more family-friendly focus of P.E.I. Pride.
While I suspect that my kids, my partner and I probably won’t be waving our rainbow flags at Pride marchers in full frontal nudity and over-the-top kinky leather floats during Saturday afternoon’s parade here in Charlottetown as we did in Toronto last month, I know we’ll be smiling in recognition at many new friends while cheering them on as they walk/ride along the parade route here.
And instead of a mock, bobble-headed mayor float which has become the iconic comic relief of my city’s parade back home in Ontario, I’ll be enviously admiring Charlottetown’s LGBTQ community as their mayor supportively participates in this important event live and in person.
Happy Pride, P.E.I., and sorry I misjudged you.
Vera C Teschow is a mainly-summer Islander, a certified teacher, licensed pilot and mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins. Visit her online at www.verateschow.ca.