Bring me sunshine: Attending the Intergen Rainbow Pride Festival at #WorldPride 2014

In what has already felt at times an overly commercial, and unnecessarily branded World Pride, it was a pleasure on a day trip to the islands in Toronto Harbor to bump into Pamela and Jason.

Jason dancing with one of the attendees
Jason dancing with one of the attendees

Pamela and Jason are workers at Sunshine Centre’s for Seniors – a wonderful organisation that seeks out isolated and frail seniors, including LGBT seniors, who are at risk for depression and need to be connected to a supportive community. Through the contacts and friendships seniors develop at Camp Sunshine, they form meaningful relationships which will enhance their quality of life and allow them to contribute to others.

A brief outline of what the  Sunshine Centres do
A brief outline of what the Sunshine Centres do

When we bumped into them Pamela and Jason were busy blowing up balloons and making decorations for their very first Inter-generational Rainbow Pride Festival the next day.  They were extremely kind to invite us back for the event itself.

The decorated space
The decorated space

I have to admit I was a little worried getting the ferry back to the island the next day. In my experience, events with vulnerable seniors – like events with vulnerable young people – are often cringe-worthy. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Jazz with accompanying signing
Jazz with accompanying signing

The Rainbow Pride Festival was a joyous event full of food, music (outstanding live jazz ), a little politics, some great dancing. It was also – in terms of social mobility, ethnicity, gender and sexual diversity – the most inclusive World Pride event that I’ve been to despite many of it’s attendees being 60 or over (why that should have surprised me, put down to my own prejudices).

A diverse, inclusive, intergenerational mix of attendees and volunteers
A diverse, inclusive, intergenerational mix of attendees and volunteers

Part of what I think made it so successful was the focus on intergenerational celebration. One of the most abiding, and damaging, barriers in gender and sexually diverse communities is the intergenerational barrier. That spectrum people of different generations have nothing to offer each other if they’re not interested in shagging each other. One of the really lovely images of the day was watching young people, draped in rainbow tat, gold lame or tutus, wandering around checking on food, drink or just having a chat or dance.

A group dance to 'Born this way'
A group dance to ‘Born this way’

Before we left (I had four Pride events to attend that day though none were as much fun as this), I had a quick chat with Pamela who is one of the senior workers at the Sunshine center. She was clear that part of the reason that they were able to do this was because of the money that came because of World Pride, but Toronto had guaranteed that money for a further three years. I couldn’t help but think that, as much as I find the branding of World Pride 2014 difficult, events like this make it worthwhile.

Best Pride decorations so far
Best Pride decorations so far

It also struck me that I can’t recollect a similar social benefit from the World Pride a couple of years ago  in London. Yet, it’s clear for many folks – the larger events at Pride festivals aren’t inclusive – whether due to age, family concerns, mental health issues, etc. There was also something about the back-to-basics inclusivity of the Rainbow Pride Festival that reminded me of Pride events I attended in the 1980’s where community came before the branded logo.

Welcome Sign to the Rainbow Pride Festival
Welcome Sign to the Rainbow Pride Festival

 

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