Six LGBTQA+ Executives Share Their First Pride Weekend Experiences
June is Pride Month in Toronto. With Pride Weekend rapidly approaching and the festivities set to kick off on June 22nd, we asked these six LGBTQA+ executives about their first Pride Weekend experience.
Written By Noah Goad
Founder and CEO, Lightspeed
"I had my first real Pride weekend experience when I moved to Montreal in 2001. It was a special time in my life because I hadn’t been living in the city that long and was in the process of getting to know the people. I moved to Montreal with friends from Vancouver and we took part in the festivities together. Experiencing Pride in Montreal solidified my love for the city, and was a great way to further be immersed in the city’s rich culture and diversity. I remembered seeing so many different cultures coming together and really celebrating this idea of unconditional love. There were families, groups of friends, and different companies all being incredibly supportive and loving. It was very special."
Co-founder and Chair, Venture Out
"My first Pride Weekend in Toronto, I wasn’t out yet to my family or many of my friends. I had a good friend, Isabel, who knew I was gay and that I didn’t have anyone to go to Pride with. She suggested we go to The Village in the evening, and to the parade. I was incredibly nervous of being seen by someone I knew, or of not fitting in. In fact, I was so nervous, I made Izzy hold my hand for the first hour while we wandered the village. I was surprised by how much it meant to me to be in a queer space for the first time in my life. I had met very few openly LGBTQ+ people before, so being surrounded by hundreds of queer folks and allies who weren’t just saying it was okay for me to be gay was something to celebrate. It was overwhelming."
Founder and Executive Director, Venture for Canada
"The first Pride weekend I ever attended was in 2012 in New York City, where at the time I was interning for Goldman Sachs. I remember feeling such a sense of community and acceptance. Marriage equality had only passed in New York state the previous year and there was such a tremendous sense of celebration. One memory stands out: Chuck Schumer, who is now the U.S. Senate Minority leader, was participating in the parade. I remember Senator Schumer walking down the street with his throngs of supporters. He spoke into a microphone, in his thick, New York City accent, the famous Martin Luther King quotation: "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."
Executive Director, Pride Toronto
"My first Pride experience (as an queer person) was in 2012. What I saw was love and acceptance. I remember seeing a lot of same-sex couples and feeling that the vibe was chill and open. Of course when you first go, you see some nudity and open expressions of gender queerness. While it may feel like you are simply shocked by what you see, it is actually experiencing so many people being free (and wanting that for yourself), which stops and moves you. It can feel quite aspirational. When you don't live as your authentic self for whatever reason and find yourself at Pride over the weekend where you are given permission to, it's affirming; it's both positive and validating."
Founder, Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity
"My first Pride weekend was in Toronto. It was kind of an accident. I was in high school and my mom and dad were in Toronto for a conference, so I tagged along for the adventure as we were living in Sault Ste. Marie. From the Chelsea Hotel, I looked down on Yonge to see a sea of rainbows. My mom explained it was Gay Pride and something inside me clicked. I saw myself in the city, the community, the festivities. I would come out a couple years later, but I never forgot the power of that day."
Co-Founder, Body Confidence Canada
MPP-Elect, Toronto-St. Paul's
"It was simply surreal. It was affirming for me to be there, especially at a time when I was on my own journey of self -realization and self-acceptance as a queer person. Being at my first pride reminded me that I wasn't alone, and that I had a whole new and abundant world of people who would become friends and allies. It also made me love and appreciate the friends who had stuck by me through my journey even more."