It’s that time of year again! Yep, I know I’m way behind schedule with the pride festivities: I mention this every year, but yea, this really is when my mid-sized city celebrates pride, far behind the rest!
I ended up having a blast. Generally, during the days and weeks leading up to pride, I tend to think, dang, not again! What am I gonna wear? What am I gonna do? Maybe it’d be better all around if we were on vacation, and absent all together. So, yea, there’s some angst there. But as soon as I get into it, I’m IN IT!!
As far as the parade, we did something new and different – we marched with a group called “Positive Force,” which is a queer gym Caitlin (my spouse) has been training at. We didn’t know who would be there or what the group would be doing exactly, so we planned our outfits independently, on our own. I decided to go shirtless!
OK, so this is kinda a big deal. At the time I got top surgery, 3 years ago, I was known to say, “I’d never go shirtless in public though.” I’m sure if I looked through my archives, I could find multiple times where I wrote, specifically, that. BUT! Since then, I’ve changed my mind and gone shirtless a handful of times. Not right away. It took over a year; the first couple of times were when I was abroad,, visiting my brother in Turkey. I did it first in the Black Sea while my brother was preoccupied with getting a locksmith to help us with the waterlogged electronic key to the rental car, deciding that I was so far from home and the people I know so well and it’s exciting, and here I go! I did it again, on that trip, when my brother brought us to a Turkish bath, segregated by genders. I was nervous, but it all turned out fine.
I did it again a year later, at a state park all by myself with no one in sight. But also at another state park filled with people, and it was pretty thrilling. And then again this summer, at a hotel pool in Massachusetts.
Which is all to say that deciding to go without a shirt (although I did have suspenders on, to somewhat cover my nipples, because I’m not quite comfortable with them and still plan to get revisions eventually), seemed like a challenge I wanted to try. When we got down there, I was pleased to see 3 trans-masculine acquaintances already ready to go without shirts on. And a bunch of other acquaintances too; it seems like we picked the right group! It was us plus a yoga studio, and we handed out flyers and candy and chanted, on-and-off, “All bodies, hott bodies.”
Saw a bunch of people that we knew, including my mom and her best childhood friend. Another friend was camped out at the protesters’ corner, holding a sign that said, “My boyfriend is cute when he’s grumpy,” with an arrow pointing right at a protester. We got a good laugh out of that.
Then we just relaxed for the rest of the day. Watched Tales of the City (the new one, and now we’re making our way through the old one.)
The next day, Caitlin and I co-hosted an LGBTQIA+ themed electronic music show. That was a lot of fun. And then I stayed for another hour for the next radio show, in which the host and I read the piece I have published in an anthology, plus just goofed around.
Last week was Pride in this mid-sized city I live in. The theme this year was “Stand Out: [Live] in Color.” For the first time ever, I attended a week’s worth of events; it was pretty awesome!
On Monday, my spouse plus my drag buddy and her boyfriend and her friend from out of town all went to a panel discussion / conversation called “Fabulous Lives: [Drag] in Color.” The purpose was largely to honor a bar owner and drag queen named Naomi Kane who had passed away a few years ago. Everyone wanted to share their impressions of her (both her essence, and literally doing hilarious impressions of the way she talked and her signature phrases / philosophies). My drag buddy and I used to perform at her bar. One of the old school drag kings from that time was on the panel, as well as the drag queen who regularly hosted the weekly show. We got recognized as fellow drag kings; the vibe of the event was full of love and emotion for the scene and community.
On Thursday we went to another venue for a DJ night and drag queen show. I got picked out of the audience (unwittingly but not totally unwillingly!) along with 2 others to play a game involving a bucket strapped to my groin area with a dangling tennis ball – thrust your body in such a way as to get the ball in the bucket. I lost, but still got a complimentary beer koozie. The important part is I felt more than comfortable up there on stage doing something so completely silly.
Satutrday was the parade. My spouse and I (again) marched for their employer, a food co-op. It was just us and 2 other people! We had a lot of fun though – it felt like the perfect combination of laid-back and exciting. We were right behind the local goth nightclub, and the DJ was driving his goth-mobile, playing gloomy / angsty mostly 80s music, which was a great soundtrack! One of the other marchers with the club told us he’s taking requests. I asked for “Swamp Thing” by The Chameleons. After we were done in the parade, we stepped to the side to watch the rest. When there was a lull, two kids, probably around age 10, ran across the street, directly to me, and handed me a heart shaped rainbow balloon. I have no idea why, but it pretty much made my parade! My spouse and I used the balloon in our photo shoot we did back home.
Then that night, I went out to a dance party with my spouse’s sister and a group of her friends. It felt really good to get wrapped up in dancing. And!!! Completely out of nowhere, a guy approached me and said,
“Hey, are you Kameron.”
“We did a David Bowie thing together.”
“Oh, yea, cool… At The [name of venue.]”
“No, it was the one at The [different venue.] I was the promoter. I never paid you.”
“Oh, OK yeah I remember.”
“I owe you $50. Here!”
And he just handed me the money! This was like 6 or 7 years ago, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him since! I didn’t even go by “Kameron” at that point. I was so amazed this was happening, I gave him a hug. He laughed. Then I went back to dancing, but I’ve been telling this story over and over again ever since, haha.
Sunday we went to the picnic. Saw more drag. Hung out with friends. Said hi to more people.
I like the fact that this year it was a full week of festivities! Here are some pics:
So, our city celebrates Pride long after the anniversary of Stonewall, for some strange reason. It is always the 2nd full week in July, with the parade and festival and picnic landing right in the middle of July. I was overly busy at that time, and kept stalling on writing a re-cap. But I feel motivated, largely because it’s something I’ve kept up with every year, thus far. Here are posts about past Prides!
This year, I had ideas for what to do in the parade, but had zero time for prep-work. Good thing I had a lot of stuff on hand! I woke up at 9am and needed to meet my spouse’s employer’s group (a Food Co-op) by 12:45, about 2.5 miles from our house. This proved difficult because I had a funky ride I was trying to pedal (see below!) The store had no cohesion – it was a total free for all. In the past, we’ve handed out coupons, or people have walked with a shopping cart, dressed as vegetables. But there was nothing like that this time ’round.
I tricked out a clown bike I got from a friend with balloons and signs that said, “WAYO 104.3” and “Kryptic Pop Thrills” (just because I wanted to do some self promotion for the fact that I am a radio DJ!) plus I made a sign for my spouse that said, “Summer of Love Trumps Hate.” The theme of the parade was Summer of Love. I brought a boombox for my sister-in-law (actually, she gave me the boombox for xmas one year), and we played an old mix tape entitled “Pride Parade Jamz” – a remnant of a parade of yore, in which my drag buddy and I marched to the beat of our own drum. I was dressed as a snazzy mis-matched dandy bicyclist, and my spouse was dressed in some sort of psychedelic fashion. It was us, 3 friends, two shareholders with their kid / toddler, sister-in-law, and a former employee with his wife and baby. I was sometimes pedaling / sometimes walking, straddling the bike. I was alternately shouting about WAYO, the Co-op, and Pride. I handed out pop rocks to like 5 kids, and a whole movie-theatre-sized spree to a group of teenagers, and sweet tarts to an unsuspecting woman who was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Vagetarian.” I told her I liked her shirt because I am a “Sagittarius.” I realize this doesn’t make total sense, but if you say the words out loud, they sound close enough! I also told an audience participant that he “looks just like Boy George,” and I got my pic taken a lot and I hugged a lot of friends on the sidelines, if I was fortunate enough to spot them.
Afterwards, we skipped the festival and just hung out at home. Later, I texted my friend who had given me the bike, and they had vague plans to go to a gay bar, but he quickly changed his mind and said they’d meet at this new bowling alley, etc. which is what I suggested. This place is insane. It is a warehouse turned bowling alley / ping pong, ski ball, shuffleboard, astroturf lawn games / restaurant / whiskey bar / cocktail bar. The four of us chatted in a super animated way for about an hour, and I was in bed by 9:30.
I also participated in an event at our local art gallery, the following day, which was new for me. I got roped in, last minute, to set up a table to show some historical / archival gay stuff from our city over the years (I just got connected to do this based on some old photos and things I had been posting on facebook to gear up for Pride!) The event was not super well attended or anything (people were probably busy day drinking and picnicking) but I had a lot of fun anyway. I got to meet some people and explore the art gallery (there was a specific video installation of a drag queen which was sooooo amazing!)
My spouse’s family met us down there, and we then went out to eat and then to a movie.
I loved the fact that I saw every one of my spouse’s immediate family members over the course of the Pride Weekend!
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal. He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music. He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.” He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”
You can check it out here: Evan Westfal
The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.” My favorite is probably the title track.
I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton. He said,
If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs. As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.
The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.
I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate? He said,
My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.
He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:
fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly. Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.
I’m just going to repeat that acronym: “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!” Haha, I love that! Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th. If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car! It’s up there!
Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat
Just like in past years, I know I’m behind on the pride-related post, but this really is when our city celebrates pride. This year’s theme was “Let’s Make Magic.” My partner and I took that concept and twisted and twirled it to suit us. She has a wand that a friend made, and she has lots of fun black clothes. She also has badass sword earrings and newish leg tattoos. I have this zebra print cowboy hat that I’ve worn a lot for drag performances, and recently it’s acquired a white plastic flower, but I don’t know from when or where. I also had an idea for a magic trick. Here’s some pictured from right before we biked to get down to the parade:
This year, we started out earlier than usual, and went to a friend’s house for a brunch party ahead of time. Three of them were wearing black matching short-shorts in overall form, with nothing underneath, plus loads of glitter and spray paint and face makeup. They had made incredible puppet-like creations to carry, and they planned to watch the parade and then jump in at the end. That sounded fun! But my spouse and I also wanted to march with her employer (a food co-op), like we had done last year. So we split our time half and half: after the party we went to find her group, and we did half of the parade with them. I handed out 300 coupons for $5 off a $25 dollar purchase. I love handing things out!
Then about half-way through, we jumped out and walked back to where our rouge group of friends were watching. Every time a dog walked by, a bunch of them would go pet him/her. And every time there was a gap in the parade, they’d all walk into the road to fill the space until the next group caught up. Once the last group passed by, they jumped in and started chanting, “The People, The People…” and urging other spectators to jump in and join. A lot of people did! The mass got larger and larger until we reached the end and people started dispersing. It was a blast! Usually in the parade, I’m with a small group, and it was really great to just get swept up in this energy.
Afterward, we decided not to go to the festival because of the admission cost and crowds. We met up with some of my spouses co-workers for pizza and beer. The following day though, we actually attended the picnic, which I haven’t done since I was a teenager, because we wanted to catch up with some friends. It was low-key. We saw some drag performances, which do not quite translate into a mostly sober, middle-of-the-day, middle-of-a-field environment. Haha.
This may have been the most fun I’ve had during pride in years. I think because we were with different people, throughout the weekend, and just because I was less stressed and anxious. With less anxiety, there’s more potential for fun! I love it! (Also, we were having a lot of fun with our costumes!!!
Here are some past posts about Pride:
I got this gem at a thrift store in 2000 or 2001. Back when you could still get old t-shirts for $2. I remember especially liking it because I never really thought that Kodak was known for their batteries. As if this t-shirt was an announcement to remind people that they should buy the batteries too, while they’re at it. I haven’t worn this in years, but I wore it all the time in college. I actually had it in a box of shirts I wanted to keep but were no longer in rotation. It’s coming back into rotation now, full force! Although, there is a hole in it, and it is one of the delicate ones that are getting pretty threadbare. So, we’ll see.
Oh, I also wore it in the pride parade in 2006, because I was going for every rainbow color in my outfit, and this fit the bill. Now I’m noticing some colors are more prominent than others: I could have been marching for McDonalds! (And Kodak, of course. …In 2006, the company was giving it’s best shot in the production of digital cameras, but by 2012 it filed for bankruptcy and phased out of that market. It’s still hanging in there in the printing and imaging fields, and it does still produce certain types of specialty film. I couldn’t find anything on the Kodak wikipedia page about batteries though!)
I’m realizing that I need to change the way I fold my shirts. They all have a crease down the middle (see top photo) that I need to get rid of, by learning how to do it like a pro. There are a bunch of videos on how to accomplish this in 2 seconds, like this:
I tried it a few years ago, but never got the hang of it. I feel a lot more motivated now though. It’s going to be fun to learn.
(One note about the upcoming week starting tomorrow – my spouse and I will be on vacation in MA and NH – I’ll be away from the internet. I love not going on the internet for long spans of time, but I will miss staying up-to-date with blogs!)
This post is part of a series about my t-shirt collection – now that I’ve had top surgery, I can wear them all again, all the time!
For more posts in this series (so far), see:
I know I’m behind on the celebratory Pride post – this really is when my city celebrates Pride. Why it’s not in June, I’m not sure. Yesterday was the parade and festival, and today is a picnic. There were some other events throughout last week too, but I wasn’t really in the loop. Usually we just march in the parade, whether it’s with an actual group, or just kind of infiltrating, doing our own thing.
We dressed up in fun outfits, like every year. I gotta say though, that personally, it’s losing its excitement. It used to be such a thrill. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’ve done it so many times, but it’s just sort of meh, now. Nothing lately has felt exciting – maybe that’s part of rebounding from all I went through lately. I hope the world takes on a shimmer, once in a while, again soon…
This year, my partner’s employer (a food co-op) was in the parade, so we marched with them. They had 2 banners, some people dressed up in produce costumes, and a couple of shopping carts holding buckets of soapy solution to make giant bubbles with. And also a dog, riding in a cart. I handed out coupons for $5 off $25 purchase – we got rid of 600 coupons!
After the parade, we went and ate burritos and then came home to relax. We watched a documentary on Tig Notaro.
Then we went out to a bar for an event called BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League). They sporadically hold events at different bars, and it’s always a fund raiser for some organization. This time it was the gay alliance. Lady arm wrestlers take on a whole persona and have an entourage go out into the crowd and drum up bets for who will win. There are two winners – the strongest arm, and the one who raises the most $$. They had names like Malice in Wonderland and Beth Amphetamine. It was pretty entertaining. There was an announcer, referee, and DJ to enhance the hype.
I guess it was cool to see some people while we were marching and to go out to an event. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I asked my partner about it, and she said I haven’t seemed very engaged lately. I agree with that. When will that return? She says I should just keep putting myself out there and going through the motions. I agree with that too.
I know that pride month is long over, and it would appear I’m quite a bit behind, but this actually is when Pride happens in our city. I’d been having a glum summer so far, and this day really helped lift my spirits. My partner and I marched in the parade with the local gay alliance (the one I’ve been doing office volunteer work with, since January).
I woke up early to help create 8 balloon “backpacks” to be worn at the parade. I didn’t end up claiming one to wear, so my partner and I decided to create our own balloon backpacks, you know, so we would fit in better.
As we marched, I seriously could feet the pride sinking in, for real. The parade followed a new route this year, and it was a definite improvement. Lots of people cheering, protesters much less prominent (for whatever reason.) My partner and I held hands for a while! I said hi to and hugged other people I knew from the alliance. It feels super great to know I’m starting to become more connected to this community, a little bit.
This was not my first time marching in the parade, not by a long shot. But it was my first time marching with a group, legit. For about 7 years straight, I would merge in with the parade to do my own thing, sometimes with my partner and friends, sometimes just with my drag buddy. In my own way, I was protesting the fact that groups have to pay for a spot. I strongly felt that, even though I didn’t belong to a group, I belonged in the parade. It was always kinda chaotic. Frenzied, manic energy (sort of forced, sometimes).
We walked with boomboxes playing our fave song (not the club hits.) We rode our bikes. We handed out flyers for radical queer reading groups, for performance nights, for the anarchist community space. We gave away candy and hugs. We hoola-hooped, danced, ALWAYS created huge gaps between ourselves and those in front of us (accidentally) because we were interacting with the crowds so much which caused us to delay walking forward, haha. At some point, it started to feel exhausting, but I kept thinking I had to keep doing it – it was a tradition. Last year, I let myself off the hook, didn’t even attend. This year, we’re figuring out different ways to do it. It felt pretty great.
I read some reflections on Pride this past month – that it’s corporate, that it’s not inclusive, that it’s not worthwhile or necessary any longer. If, by chance you do feel this way, next year, consider making Pride your own by merging into the thick of it, or streaking through the middle of it, and giving voice to whatever it is you feel you want to say. Be the people you feel you’re not seeing!