By Dianne Skoll
LGBT Perspectives columnist
OTTAWA — Sunday (Aug. 23) was the Ottawa Pride Parade. This year’s parade held special significance for me for two reasons: It was the first parade since I started living full-time as Dianne and it was the first parade I attended.
The weather was perfect for the parade — sunny and warm, but not too hot. Gender Mosaic, the transgender group to which I belong, had a giant float that had been assembled in record time by volunteers who seem to have an infinite amount of energy, led by a member of Gender Mosaic whose ability to get things done is truly incredible.
As the parade got under way, I walked behind the float waving the transgender flag. My sister and brother-in-law were walking with me. Lining the streets of Ottawa were thousands of happy allies and supporters. I was doubly amazed, first to see such liveliness and animation (hey, this is Ottawa, after all), and second, to see the incredible energy and generosity of spirit from the people cheering us on.
The Gender Mosaic float held about 30 people and illustrated the incredible diversity of the trans community. We had transgender kids, teens, young adults, adults and senior citizens. We had MTFs and FTMs. We had parents, siblings and children of transgender people on the float offering love and support to their family members.
And most of all, we had happiness and pride.
After we’d marched the parade route, we went back to near the end of the route to watch the other floats. We saw groups as diverse as the Ottawa Humane Society, Family Services Ottawa, the Ottawa Police, the Ottawa-Carleton District Schoolboard, Amnesty International and Keshet, a Jewish LGBT group. Amnesty International’s presentation was particularly thought-provoking; their marchers carried flags of countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Uganda and others where an LGBT pride parade is only a distant dream. Above the flags were the words: “We stand with you.”
We must never forget our fellow LGBT people who do not enjoy our freedoms.
After the parade, I started looking at news reports. Predictably, they were often followed with hateful and derisive comments from readers. A common theme in the comments was “Why do those people feel the need to flaunt their sexuality in front of us? Are they just doing it to shock?”
And that got me thinking about why I marched in the pride parade. As a transwoman in Ontario, my rights are fairly well protected already. I don’t really need to march in a parade to obtain basic civil rights. I certainly don’t need to march in a parade to flaunt my sexuality or gender identity; my sexuality is private and my gender identity is simply who I am.
No, I did not march in the pride parade to annoy haters. Nor did I march to give cisgender heterosexual people a nice show or a titillating glimpse into another world.
The reason I marched in the pride parade is to let LGBT people know that it’s OK to be themselves. I want to let all the closeted LGBT people out there know that even if their family calls them sick, even if they’re bullied at school, even if their church calls them sinful, they are not.
I want LGBT people, especially youth, to know that they are beautiful, wondrous, worthy people who have the right to express themselves, to live authentic lives, and to take pride in themselves. And I think the love and energy at today’s pride parade can go a long way to wash away the guilt, fear and doubts imposed on closeted LGBT people.
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey