3. Gay Pride: Spot the Christian

My wife and I went to the Toronto Parade last year with my sister and her partner. I hadn't been since the 1990s. The success of the gay rights movement has transformed the event. Once you had your spot on the route, you were keeping it, because you weren't moving easily in that crowd. The streets were cordoned off. Even if you saw someone you knew, you had no easy way of reaching them to say hello. It has grown too big.

My sister complains of a little too much overt sexuality on display.

Here, the story is different. Here, it's a lot like it was in Toronto, twenty years ago, though the community, of course, is smaller. And this year, the festival portion has moved to the city's main park, instead of being cloistered on the out-of-season fairgrounds. Lots of rainbows, the welcome addition of police marching in the parade, not merely keeping order, squirt guns, and very little public nudity—a few women went topless which, it must be noted, is perfectly legal in this country, though rarely practiced.

We had a spot in the park, at the end of the route. The protesters arrived about the time we did, and set up across the street.

I doubt they represented one denomination. This sort of protest tends to be the province of a certain breed of evangelical Christian, and a woman nearby told us she recognized some of them from such a group known for picketing local sex shops. However, the elderly nun was, we must assume, Roman Catholic. Sweet little old lady, perhaps reaching five feet. Her white habit must have been quite practical in the heat.

They held signs in black and white, slogans like:
Mother + Father = Family.
God Made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
Love the Sinner, Abhor the Sin.

Well, they were a warmer group than Westboro Baptist.

A couple people yelled in anger at the sign-holders, but better responses followed.

Lots of people posed for pictures, with the protesters standing silently behind them. One of the first parade-watchers to sit in front of the protesters, one-half of a female couple, engaged the nun in a lengthy conversation which I wish I could have heard. A man on our side of the street seated and with a device to aid with walking, a worn looking man wasted with illness, finally, with great effort, stood. He looked determined, slightly angry. He strode across the street and spoke to the middle-aged man who seemed to be the protest organizer. After a few minutes, he returned, clearly exhausted, but satisfied.

In little time, people had made counter-signs, and we soon had a largely silent war of rival factions blocking each other. Colour placards read such things as:
If God hates Queers, why did He make us so Fabulous?
Some chicks like chicks. Deal with it.
Jesus hung out with 12 men and a sex trade worker. He's more like me than you.
Not quite as funny as the signs posted annually, now, in opposition to Westboro Baptist's picketing of San Diego ComicCon, but entertaining (You might be asking why Westboro Baptist pickets ComicCon, but I submit you probably have better things to puzzle over).

A flamboyantly dressed man from the crowd, a walking rainbow, offered the elderly nun his camp chair. She resisted, at first, but he offered again, politely, and she accepted it. Some people applauded.

The parade passed. People headed into the park, the man took back his chair, and the picketers gathered their signs and left.


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