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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.