The Paper Plane
(Where’s the) Pride In Hamilton?
Yesterday I watched the Prime Minister raise the gay Pride flag on Parliament Hill on TV. Never before has a political figure spearheaded the gay rights movement so openly, yet in Hamilton this newfound celebration of equality couldn’t feel further away.
Pride in Hamilton is frankly in a state of decline. What used to be a month of celebration culminating in a Pride Parade has been reduced to a handful of small celebrations without any organization or even an event listing for people to look to. The most unfortunate part of all of this is that Hamilton is a large city that stands to gain a lot from gay pride awareness. In Toronto, Pride is essentially business as usual. A massive cash cow that attracts tourists from all over. There’s nothing to prove by having a Pride Parade, everyone already knows it’s one of the best cities in the world to be gay, the celebration is just extra. In Hamilton though, something real is at stake.
I’ve had discussion with gay youth in Hamilton and many feel it has only gotten harder to be open over the years. Many complain that their schools have withdrawn their Pride groups, and if they’re unlucky enough to attend a religious school chances are they never had one to begin with. It’s no secret Hamilton isn’t the most welcoming of cities. One only need take a walk down Barton street to encounter hostility and unwelcoming stares for even vaguely identifying as gay. I myself have been the victim of muttering hate slang, and even had drinks thrown out the window at me as the culprits yell “fag.” All of this adds up to a city that is behind the times. Even smaller communities such as Brantford or Oshawa have actual Pride Parades, yet in the third largest city in Ontario somehow the importance of these marches has been lost.
As a youth at RADAR, the city’s queer youth group, we are told to simply visit Toronto’s parade and were even reimbursed the cost of the bus ride. This is great as it provides an opportunity to be a part of something much larger, however it can be a double-edged sword as the large crowds can prove overwhelming for some, especially if you’re not familiar with Toronto. I myself am lucky that the first couple of times I went to Pride Toronto I was accompanied by the Gay Men’s Group in Hamilton, who made me feel very welcome while still giving me space to go explore on my skateboard and climb onto the rooftops. This for me was the best way to experience Pride at the age of 19. If I had been any younger and done it on my own I probably wouldn’t have the affinity for Toronto Pride that I do today. I was truly lucky to have those people help create the transcendent experience of finding my own sexuality that Toronto Pride became for me.
What’s most disappointing about Hamilton Pride for me is that last year it felt actually superior to Toronto Pride. There was no parade, but it was at least organized enough to have a small convoy of people walk from City Hall to the Pride at the Pier event to make our presence known. Since Toronto Pride had such terrible weather conditions, this made for a better overall experience that I had at T.O. freezing in the 14 degree weather, barely able to enjoy the parade through the thick fog (let’s pray that doesn’t happen again.) I’m afraid this year Hamilton Pride is a complete write off with no rally at City Hall, no dances or events, and no organization between the different groups.
Last year there was a fundraiser in an attempt to get a police escort for a parade, but this year it seems no one is even attempting to get Hamilton Pride back to what it used to be. I am lucky to have been in the last Pride Parade the city had, and it was one of the highlights of my life. To walk through the streets while people yelled “We’re gay and proud!” made me feel more safe and comfortable then I ever thought I could be in my city. My grandmother has told me that some of the older members of the LGBTQ community do not see a need for the Pride Parade anymore, but even if it is not totally needed a Pride Parade should always be available so that younger people can see and know that it is okay to be themselves. No motivational poster or queer youth group can provide the kind of positive reinforcement that actually going out and making a statement in your community does.
Looking forward to Pride in the years to come it’s obvious that more has to be done to get things back on track. There is a new gay bar in town, Steel Lounge, and they’ve already held a Pride kickoff event, so not all is lost in the city of Hamilton. I’m sure the Tower is probably hosting another open house as well, and maybe the Art Crawl will have a Pride flag waving around somewhere. Also, despite the lack of Hamilton’s LGBT community working together, a few individuals have taken the initiative to present Pride at the Pier again this year, on Saturday June 18th from noon to 11pm at Pier 4. There’s a beer garden, and entertainment includes drag shows, DJ’s, and more.
Still the absence of any real organization, and the lack of a schedule pointing to different events throughout the city, makes it seem like this city is getting smaller when in reality it’s the opposite. Hamilton is only getting bigger and its Pride month should reflect that. People should feel this is a city where they can show their true colours, not one where they have to pretend they don’t exist!
About the Author
Dylan Kulcher is an avid skateboarder, gamer, music fan, and aspiring journalist from the small airport town of Mount Hope, Hamilton. Always looking for a reason to visit the big city and network outside his comfort zone, Dylan vies to bring communities together with his writing. A member of many LGBTQ groups and participator in his local Pride rallies, he strives for transparency in his life and doesn’t feel like anyone should have to hide in the closet!.