Yesterday was Pride Day in Toronto and I headed downtown early. Gay community groups had their tables set up in a new spot, along Alexander Street, unlike in past years when they were set up along Wellesley Street East. The Toronto Gay Hockey Association had a new tent created for the event, and man am I glad that we had a tent! It started to rain shortly after I arrived at 10.00, and soon it was a downpour. The hard rain didn’t last long but it did come down in light drops off and on till noon.
My boyfriend Mark (who actually plays hockey, while I sit in the stands, drink coffee and watch) came by twenty minutes later and we chatted up the folks who walked by our tent and wondered just what on Earth gay hockey was all about. A man took photos of our tent and then introduced himself as the editor of the Finnish newspaper in Toronto. I couldn’t believe it. I then said the name of the newspaper, Vapaa Sana, and Mr. Niinistö stopped looking at our league’s brochure and asked me how I knew the name of the Finnish newspaper of all things. We had a conversation in Finnish about hockey, wherein I did reveal the whole truth that I did not play this game at all, and then Mr. Niinistö took some more pictures, interviewed the other TGHA players who were staffing the table with us, and told us that our story would be featured in the Wednesday edition of Vapaa Sana.
Mr. Niinistö tried to place my accent. I told him that I learned Finnish at Helsingin Yliopisto back in 2000. He told me that I spoke Finnish with an Estonian accent (“Sinä puhut suomea viroksi murtaen”). I found this quite amusing since I know only too well that I don’t speak the language with the rapid gunfire clip of a native Finn. As long as I can get the language down like a native speaker of another in the same language family, then all right. Estonian is a close relative of Finnish and it is much easier for those who have knowledge of Finnish to read Estonian, however it is not very easy for a Finn to understand spoken Estonian. I like to report how, during my trip to Tallinn, Estonia in 2002, I was able to read the signs and figure out what and where things were, just based on my knowledge of Finnish. Yet could I ask where was the bathroom in Estonian? Not on your life.
Mark and I headed to Yonge Street to watch the parade, which lasted a good two hours and fifteen minutes. There was a lot more watergun action than in any past parade I had attended. I should really say supersoaker action as the firearms the people were using were anything but compact pistol-sized. Some people about three metres to the left of me were soaking marching drag queens and really irking them. If you took three hours perfecting your wig and matte makeup, wouldn’t you be fuming mad? I witnessed one horrible act of retaliation by a parade marcher. The worst Pride behaviour I had ever witnessed was from a leatherwoman who marched with two whips. She was cracking her whips and looking fierce. Someone sprayed her with gushes of water and she became livid. She stood in the middle of Yonge and yelled at the spectator, taunting her or him to come right up to her and squirt her again. The spectator and the leatherwoman had a brief verbal exchange and then the leatherwoman ran towards the street barrier and flailed her whip into the crowd and struck the person. I stood there aghast. The leatherwoman carried on her way in the parade. Security was called and police came over. A few minutes later some more police came over with handfuls of ice cubes. All of these security personnel and police forced the parade into a bottleneck. I saw the police taking down this victim’s statement and there is no doubt in my mind that the leatherwoman was questioned, and perhaps arrested, at the end of the parade route. There was no story about this assault in the local press today, yet I think there surely will be a story about it in the post-Pride gay press in the days to come. I was not close enough to see who was struck, yet I was very much afraid to get in closer, for fear I would see someone with a bleeding and swollen face. Can you even imagine the danger that leatherwoman put everyone in? She flailed a whip into a thick crowd. Who else might she have struck?
After the parade Mark and I walked throughout the Pride vicinity on the only day of the year where we don’t fear taunts for holding hands together. Mark left early to prepare for a hockey game. The Toronto Gay Hockey Association does not meet during the summer and even if it did, it wouldn’t dare schedule a game on Pride Day of all things. Mark’s summer league is responsible for that conflict of epic proportions. I stayed downtown long enough to catch a drag Spice Girls concert, then Mark picked me up and we headed to his game. Mark’s team lost 0-5.
Tomorrow is Dominion Day. Happy Birthday Canada!