Today, I decided to go to a gay pride parade for the first time in my life. While I've never been a fan of parades (I've tried others, and they're just not my thing), I want to have a well-rounded experience as far as my LGBT identity is concerned. So I figured that this was definitely one of those things I should do at least once in my life. Given that much of the world only has gay pride parades as the primary gay public outing, it seems to have become something of an institution. Furthermore, last year a friend of mine participated in the event (while I ignored it altogether), and according to this friend it was an exhilarating and uplifting experience. The person I'm speaking of was actually in the parade itself, and that would always be a lot more interesting than sitting on the sidelines. But even so, why not give it a shot? I wouldn't otherwise be doing anything interesting.
So I wandered down to the Village, which had taken on a distinctively festive atmosphere (it was completely pedestrianized, with the side streets blocked off). I could feel that transition, that I was once again leaving the 'real' world and entering a somewhat different one relegated almost exclusively to the LGBT community. I arrived and came upon large crowds of cheering people, many sporting rainbow flags (some had them on their wheel chairs; they were just about everywhere). I was actually rather surprised by the upbeat attitudes of the people in my surroundings. The parade itself was difficult to see from my vantage point, but one thing I could tell was that it was definitely colourful. I just stood there, feeling rather useless amongst the lively crowd, becoming increasingly uncomfortable standing in the hot summer sun. I found myself having to argue with myself to stay, convincing myself that I was there to learn something, to discover some sort of meaning. After all, there had to be meaning to find if all these people congregated for such an event. But I still couldn't understand how the people there could be so joyful. I kept thinking, aren't we just deluding ourselves, staying reality for only a few hours if that?
So the parade continued, and I reluctantly remained in place. Then, a float went by filled with a bunch of half naked men dancing amongst a whole truck-load of bubbles. This was hardly a new or particularly exciting sight for me, as it was a rather hot day for Montréal and most of the men at the parade had their shirts off. However, there was one man there on the float who particularly caught my eye. He was dancing more actively than the others with this massive smile on his bearded face, and he was certainly wearing the least of anyone on the float (and, at least in my opinion, he looked the best). While I may have been regarding him with a bit of lust (I am human, after all), the entire scene was just so absolutely, hilariously absurd, and there he was reveling in it all with seemingly boundless energy.
What was clear with him that wasn't as obvious regarding the rest of the crowd was that he was really, truly, undeniably, uncontrollably happy. And as I watched him, I noticed something I haven't noticed in a while. My lips were beginning to raise at the end; I was breaking out into a grin. It was this change in my facial structure that made me realize: it's been way too long since I've felt this way, like erasing my basic-state half-frown. The grin widened and suddenly, the delirious absurdity of it all finally got to me, and I broke out into a full-blown smile (perhaps even a chuckle). Considering that I felt this way, I decided that I should probably take a photo to remember the moment, so I walked up the street a ways to distance myself and snapped a couple of quick shots. The guy that had inspired me to do this noticed I was taking a photo of the float, it seemed, as he pointed directly at me and started waving, never faltering in his enthusiasm.
I decided to leave the parade after this. I had actually gotten something from the experience, both subtle and wonderful: a smile on my face. I wanted to leave the scene just like that, with that expression, feeling the way that I did. It appears that I found the meaning that the others had derived from the experience, and it did feel different than with most parades. This one seems to have inspired in me that all-too-rare feeling: happiness, and it took a surprisingly long time before that smile dissipated. The parade itself was an expression of social connectedness, of joy in adversity; it was a celebration of our diverse qualities, even allowing us to embrace our own absurdities. Best of all, it put a smile on most of our faces.
With the entire city skyline, blazing in the summer sun, set before me, I walked up along the Pont Jacques Cartier to head to the park. I saw the entire parade route stretched below me, and I stopped for a moment to look down at all of the people gathered along the streets, the floats, and the colourful flags waving triumphantly as far as the eye could see. Even from this high up I could feel the joy emanating from the from the crowds below, and I once again felt that feeling I first experienced at Divers-Cite (years ago): warmth, tenderness, and a feeling of connectedness in a shared existence.