Let me start by saying that my intention here is not to preach. This blog is an examination of my psyche and sometimes that psyche has conversations with God, sometimes I imagine God speaks back. Feel free to substitute any instances of “God told me…” with “I imagined that…”. My cousin once told me when we feel God is speaking to us it’s important to hold it lightly, to never assume that the thoughts in our head can ever truly line up with the will of the Almighty. With that heady caveat out of the way I would like to thank God for an absolutely incredible pride festival 🙂
Initially I was scheduled to work all weekend, shift trades can be difficult in my department, especially on a long weekend with a major event going on. There was a family engagement on Saturday and the parade on Sunday. It would be a small miracle to get either day, but God told me to ask and within minutes of sending an email I received a response from someone willing to trade. Both days, which as miracles go is a little more than small. Or maybe I just got lucky, or maybe I’m well liked in my department, or whatever. Everything worked out so I say thank you.
Also kind of weird, I felt like God told me I would be presented with opportunity this weekend, one that I should not pass up. I knew it wasn’t going to be anything life changing, and no it was not going to involve any bedroom business. It was more like I would be offered an adventure so long as I remained open to the possibility. Or maybe this was simply something I wanted, but the point is I decided was open to going wherever the universe took me.
The morning started with church, and from there I would have to make my way to the parade block where I would be marching with my work. Mom offered to go to church with me then drive me to the parade so I didn’t have to worry about parking or public transit. The service had a pride theme, and I must say it’s incredible it is to be in such an open and inviting spiritual environment.
As the service was winding down my mother and I ducked out so we could make our way to the parade for 1130, per the instructions in the email from work. She dropped me off then went about her day. My church was also marching in the parade, but their announcement said to be a the starting block by 1145. Why were the times different? I have no idea but we didn’t start marching until about 1220… so whatever.
Being nice and early gave me a chance to chat with a number of coworkers. I met a trans woman who’s been with the company for a few months and recently started HRT. In fact she was planning to come out her parents that evening. Later on I got a text from her that she had told them, and that her mother didn’t know if she would ever be able to use her authentic name. I congratulated her and told her not to let her mothers response get her down. So I made a new friend, and they wouldn’t be the first new friend I made that day.
The parade itself was a lot of fun. I smiled the whole time, waving a rainbow flag and cheering as the crowd roared in response. We would occasionally stop and run around the float like crazy(er) people, and some of us had snacks to hand out. It was about as public a setting as one can get, and I felt absolutely incredible the entire time.
Afterwards my coworkers went their separate ways. There was talk of a party or something but nothing seemed to materialize, and soon I was left by myself on a busy street with throngs of people all heading in different directions. I contemplated heading to the train station to make my way home for the day, then remembered that I had been promised (or imagined) an adventure of some sort, so instead I simply followed the crowd I happened to find myself in.
There were a lot of people, easily thousands, all making their way to a a pride event set up by a number of local businesses. I could smell food trucks and there was a massive stage. The music was lively with a strong beat, they sky was overcast with periods of light rain. I would have been cold If I wasn’t shoulder to shoulder with what felt like half the city of Calgary.
There I was padding along waiting for the universe to present this adventure, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a trans woman I had met at a writers conference a few weeks back. We will call her Beatrix, because she is badass and carries a sword. Actually it’s an umbrella that looks like a sword, but nonetheless badass.
She said hi and we chatted for a bit, she was meeting some friends and I asked if I could tag along, since I didn’t actually know anyone there. She was happy for the company and we made our way deeper into the festival. Along the way we ran into a number of her acquaintances, she introduced me and I found myself in a small dance circle not too far from the stage. It seemed we were surrounded by every type of human, all dress styles, all interests and identities, there were goths and cosplayers, punks and furies. Me, I was still wearing my church dress, and I felt totally at ease.
The music stopped and speeches began. The woman on stage was deliberately channeling Hunger Games, and even made mention of this in her speech. She thanked the various organizations that had helped to put everything together, and at one point mayor Nenshi came on to deliver a speech. Our city’s mayor is arguably the best mayor on the planet, he’s actually earned this distinction in global surveys. So it was pretty cool to hear him speak at the pride event.
It was getting cold, and Beatrix suggested we make our way to a local pub to warm up. There we met some more of her friends, all wonderful people. We talked about the bad weather and the reason why Calgary holds it’s pride event in September, apparently it’s to avoid competing with the one in Vancouver. I get that but why September of all months? One couple spoke about how nice it was to have a day where they could express affection in public without receiving hostility, and bemoaned that this was limited to one day a year. Like when straight people ask why they don’t get a day, the response is that every day is straight people day.
In a previous post I mentioned I haven’t used public washrooms since living full time, but my initial plan to go the whole day without using a washroom proved naive. I decided to go for the mens room, simply because I still get embarrassed and honestly don’t want to offend anyone. I had just stepped inside the mens room when Beatrix appeared and said, “Sorry I should have said this place is cool, and the women’s washroom is over here.” She showed me to the ladies room, I hurriedly did my business and got out.
Once seated Beatrix told us that when given a hard time in washrooms she simply declares, “Trans rights matter!” as if dropping a smoke bomb, then makes her escape in the confusion. She recounted a number of scenarios where this had proven effective. She said for the most part women don’t care at all, and are in fact generally very supportive. This was my experience throughout the rest of the day, and my next trip to the washroom was considerably more relaxed.
Our little group made our way to another pub a few blocks away where we met with even more members of Calgary’s LGBT community. We had a seat on the patio and sat with a lovely couple that Beatrix had met a few times. We were next to the balcony and it was still pretty cold out, but I was having so much fun it didn’t bother me.
In the middle of the patio was a large group of women, and I was informed they were among Calgary’s most prominent lesbians. I know almost nothing about our community but there was an air of reverence when Beatrix spoke of them, of course there was also a lot of gossip and intrigue. The couple we had sat down with was familiar with the group in question, and were able to offer some insight into the social dynamic. No specifics of course, no names or anything tawdry. One thing I’ve learned is that lesbians are usually very respectful towards one another.
They spoke of the local bar scene, and how there weren’t many places these days, and the places that are left cater mostly to gay men. Apparently things used to be better a few years ago, but now the scene was rife with misogyny. I’ve only been to one gay bar in Calgary, and it has something of a dubious reputation among lesbians.
For example I was informed that one of the ways this establishment prunes their clientele is to charge cover, but waive it for members. Of course there is no actual membership, what it really means is that they only charge cover to straight people and recently, lesbians. I’m told that in the past they were open to all queer folk, but more and more they have been discouraging anyone who wasn’t a young gay man. I heard a number of stories of apparent discrimination, and was a bit embarrassed to admit I have never been asked to pay cover there.
Actually the last time I was there was to see the weekly drag show, and one of the queens made a transphobic statement that I think he may have intended to be self depreciating, but it kinda ruined my night when he said it. I relayed this story to the table and they all nodded in understanding.
I was having a really great time but my social anxiety was starting to creep up on me. Here I was surrounded by wonderful, accepting people, but they were also relative strangers. I’d had a few conversations with Beatrix, but I didn’t know anyone else. We went downstairs in search of better seating and didn’t find any, what we did find were three very good friends of mine from work. They had watched the parade but didn’t want to march, primarily because they wanted to enjoy the parade.
So my friends, who had been looking for a seat downstairs, agreed to join us all back upstairs. Suddenly I was totally at ease, and once more gave the big guy upstairs a quick thank you. The time came again to brave the washrooms, and I asked my friends if they thought it would be ok to use the ladies room in this place. They all nodded and spoke reassuringly so off I went.
I have to say women’s washrooms really are much nicer, and it’s not just that they’re cleaner. The people are nicer, and surprisingly so is the graffiti. Anyone who’s been to a men’s washroom can attest that graffiti is more or less the same everywhere. It’s usually vulgar and bigoted in some way. Sure I’ve seen some clever bathroom graffiti over the years, there’s been good artwork and the occasional bit of sage advice. But what I saw in that woman’s washroom genuinely changed my worldview.
Everything I read, literally everything was encouraging and uplifting in some way. There were some absolutely gorgeous pictures, there as a really great looking cat, and this weird octopus thing. I kinda wanted to take a picture but of course didn’t because obviously. I mentioned all of this to my friends when I got out and they laughed, saying they had wondered how long it would be before I commented on this.
As I’ve written there’s no single trait unique to men or women, but there are differences to be sure. Femininity suits me a heck of a lot more than masculinity ever did. At one point in the evening one of my long time work friends was recounting the firs time they had met one of the other coworkers present. The story was meant to be humorous but the person found it embarrassing and, having drank more than a little began to cry. Among my guy friends this would have been cause for ridicule, but instead we all did our best to make her feel better.
After a while Beatrix said her goodbyes and went home for a nap. My work friends and I were able to find a table downstairs and chatted well into the night. I even got the chance to sing a bit of karaoke. I honestly can’t say if the day was the result of God watching over me, or a simple combination of serendipity and modest social skills, though I’m inclined to believe the latter, in any case it turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
Happy pride everyone 🙂