I didn’t go to the Pride parade this year. I usually do, because despite my deeply conflicting feelings about the whole thing (well documented in this column by now), there is still something slightly magical about seeing public space made explicitly for queers, rather like the way one might smell a lover’s shirt days after they have worn it: you can hardly smell them anymore, but the memory of their scent lingers. But last year something happened to take the magic away, and I wasn’t ready to go back.
I was on 84 Street, on the grass beside that weird little separate northbound part of the road. The parade was routed through the wider southbound street, and there were a bunch of people watching on the grassy meridian between the two. One group of spectators caught my eye immediately: three young men and one woman. I’m going to go ahead and assume that they were straight and cis. They were riotously, ridiculously drunk on the cheap rum they were chugging from pop bottles. Cool, no problem. The woman was topless, with electric tape over her nipples. Awesome! Nudity for
As the parade went on, though, my spidey-sense started tingling. Many of you know exactly what I mean: that sense that starts in your gut and works its way through your body, that feels primal and raw and says danger. Maybe it had to do with how drunk they were. Maybe it had to do with the fact that each of three men would take turns jiggling the woman’s breasts at most parade participants (including, oddly enough, Justin Trudeau) while screaming, “Titties! Look at the titties!” The woman didn’t say anything, she would just laugh. Maybe it was just the fact that they felt so entitled to act this way at a bloody Pride parade.
Regardless, I was still not prepared when one of them dashed into the parade and started groping a trans* woman while screaming something like “I got one!” I was stunned, rooted to the spot, and by the time I could make my muscles move again, the guy was back with his friends, the parade had carried the woman away, and my wife was off like a shot to grab security. I still remember that woman’s face: she looked so scared. I wonder if she was newly out. I wonder if she’s OK.
(And if you’re wondering, security came over and lingered around this group of people and then just left.)
And then the day just went on. The parade ended, I went home, felt a little sick and then tried to forget it happened. I felt shame: shame that I didn’t react faster, that I didn’t do violence to that man, that something like that could just happen. And I was angry: fuck that asshole for thinking he had every right to assault someone in broad daylight, in a space that is supposed to be about us.
So I needed a break from the parade this year. I didn’t need another reminder that, despite my fraught feelings about Pride, I still naively thought it was a different space, that our rape-culture, patriarchal, cis-het world could stop at the door for just one day. But as queers become more mainstream, the more the mainstream spills over into our space. And that’s not the fault of the organizers; it’s just our shitty world. And let’s not pretend that queers are immune from perpetuating rape culture, either: we’re not. I still wanted just that one day, though.
Be safe out there, queers. V