I realize the name of this site is My Gay Toronto, and that most of what I write about should concern the people of Toronto, but sometimes it’s fun to turn our attention to far off exotic places. Like Timmins, for instance.
I heard that groan. Who wants to talk about a fairly isolated northern mining community unless we’re talking about the fabulous Shania Twain. But I’m from Timmins, too, which accounts for why I happened to be there when this small town celebrated their very first Pride March.
Consider the unlikelihood of this event. There aren’t that many actual gay people living in Timmins, but they have reached the point of desiring visibility and equal rights. So a woman named Julie Demarchi started assembling a team to make it happen. It took a year, but they got the police, the politicians, the unions, and the banks to come aboard. That’s what it takes to build a Pride March these days, and it works.
So on Saturday, September 6, there was a rally in Hollinger Park. A trans comedian hosted, introducing several politicians and a Native drum circle. One politician said that he does not want to be "on the wrong side of history." I hung out with Jean-Claude Lafond, a fellow Timmins boy who now lives in Toronto. Jean-Claude is making a documentary called Jesus Meets the GayMan. He was thrilled because they got a lengthy interview with the only two Christian Conservative protesters in attendance. Even they were adorable.
Then a march began. A staggering 500 people – 1/80th of the population – marched through the downtown core. There were lots of face-painted children being dragged along by their progressive parents. Usually with small-town Pride, the only hot guys are the cops and the bartenders, but that was not entirely the case in Timmins, where handsome young men abound. (I should know. My boyfriend is also from Timmins.) There was a bagpipe-playing lesbian, and lots of people with signs, balloons, and noisemakers. To have grown up on those streets, the very streets where I was tormented and called a fag when I was 14, and now to march proudly on those streets in broad daylight, made me shit my pants.
That night, three Toronto drag queens - Farra N Hyte, Heaven Lee Hytes and Alisha Van Horne - flew in on Porter Air to entertain a ravenous crowd at a bar called Amigo’s. Farrah hit a home run by vamping to Shania’s "Man, I Feel Like A Woman." The crowd, consisting largely of ample gals who work in social services, loved our Toronto queens. They lined the stage waving five dollar bills.
The beauty of small town Pride is that it is refreshingly free of lust, party drugs, apoplectic activism, or vulgar declarations. It’s about a small group of like-minded locals coming together, being allowed to feel some respect and freedom, if only for a day. I, for one, can’t wait for the next Timmins Pride Day.
Check out my footage. I feel certain it will put Timmins on the Pride party circuit next year.