Community Voyeur, Pride Toronto
The Prancing Elites: Challenging Homophobia
Part of our theBUZZ Pride Toronto 2016 coverage (Part 2 of 3)
With Pride month already upon us there’s lots to celebrate; our right to get married, have our own children and our basic human rights are more or less protected under the law. The LGBT movement was born out of a rebellion against how we were being treated, and so any notion that we are fighting to be just like everyone else’ negates the sacrifices of those before us, most notably the 3000+ people that took to the street the day after the 1981 bathhouse raids here in Toronto.
LGBT people all over the world continue to face fierce discrimination, unprecedented violence, and in many cases hunted down like animals because of who they love. This is precisely why The Prancing Elites Project is such a powerful force in combating both complacency while battling homo/transphobia at large.
If queer people have a goal to ‘blend in’ with our surroundings, then we’ll loose effectiveness and in essence give up the very thing that makes us unique. By trying to live up to someone else’s expectations we are literally set up to lose our voice. This is why The Prancing Elites is a hero for the next generation, one that is fearless, courageous and wildly entertaining.
You’ve performed in a number of homophobic venues, is there one that sticks out as memorable because you were able to turn the situation around?
KENTRELL: We’ve performed at numerous homophobic venues/events, the one that sticks out the most is the Semmes Christmas Parade 2013. This was a parade that we thought we were a part of, that welcomed us whole heartedly, when in actuality the people of the city were “outraged and appalled”. We were invited to participate in a Christmas parade (see video below) and we came as we were, because of the open invitation. The backlash that we got hit world news, ABC , CNN, it was literally traumatizing because of some of the horrible things that people had to say. We turned this situation around for the good of our career. Networks and production companies from all over thought that our story was so compelling, to the point where they were even more interested in working with us for a television docu-series. I said all that to say, just be yourself because you never know what God has planned for you. If you’re living a lie or being someone who you aren’t, there’s no telling how many opportunities you have given up or that will pass you by.
JEREL: We’ve recently performed at a “Queer Homecoming” in Birmingham, Al. We initially were only suppose to introduce ourselves and dance, but we’ve ended up talking to the kids on a more personal level and sharing our life experiences with them. Inspiring them, in hopes of helping them overcome some of life’s hardest challenges. It was very empowering and such a humbling experience.
ADRIAN: We have never set out to change everyone’s perception but we have always touched at least two or more individuals to where they now have a more open mind about people’s lives and their way of living.
TIM: Not really I usually just turn in walk away and just let people say what the want, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just hold my head high and fight back the tears.
Tim’s response is the most telling out of the group because I think it’s the most accurate in how many of us actually experience homophobia. It would be great to say the perfect retort or come-back that changes that situation, but what often happens is we’re just caught off-guard, and so it’s usually over by the time we realize what has happened. Reacting to someone who is queerphophic is not easy, but there is a trick and that’s to do everything you can to keep falling in love with yourself. It may sound self-centered, but the more we can embrace ourselves the harder it is to shake us when we’re confronted, and so if we want to change the culture around us we’ll need to start with ourselves.
Who are you mentoring and what advice have you given them that you didn’t get yourself?
Adraian Anyone who has doubts about being their authentic selves, I want them to know that it’s okay to live in your truth. Everyday you wake up BREATHE FOR YOU and not for anyone else!
KENTRELL: My boyfriend Davanta and I just started a dance team focused strictly on females between the ages of 14-18. The dance team is a nonprofit organization that allows young females to have a place where they can come express themselves through dance. We are teaching them about being young ladies, being able to let them know that a “no” doesn’t mean “no”, it means “next opportunity”!
KAREEM: I’m still mentoring the dance organization [Blazing Elegance]. I’m also looking to begin teaching classes at a local studio.
JEREL: I’m a mentor for a few fans of mine who look up to me because of my past and how I’ve overcome my situations (i.e. my relationship with my father and overcoming society’s harsh words). I tell them to ALWAYS stay true to who they are because one day, their dreams will come true. It’s easier to be yourself rather than be someone or something you’re not.
A huge disco thank-you to Victoria Schwarz and Jacqie Lucas at Pride Toronto for all of your assistance.
Next Week: The Prancing Elites on Pride, Blockorama and the glitter trail to their door.
About the Author
Raymond Helkio is an author, director filmmaker, and graduate of Ontario College of Art & Design. He currently lives in both Toronto and New York. His most recent play, LEDUC, is now available in paperback. www.raymondhelkio.com