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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 29 Jun 2014

Location: Toronto, Canada

MapToday was Sunday, and it was an extraordinary day for us three travellers from little ol’ Tasmania. Toronto is hosting World Pride, which is an international week-long event of festivals, concerts, parades and cultural activities promoting lesbian and gay issues. It’s only held every few years – last time was in London, next time will be in Madrid. Toronto has been planning this week for five years.

The day started at breakfast. Our hosts Jill and Walter are involved in a support group called PFLAG – Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays, and the group hosted a breakfast as part of Pride Week. About two hundred people came, and somehow many of them gravitated toward us, as we had clearly travelled the furthest than anyone to be there. Perhaps the most important “celebrity” to attend was the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynn, who is the first female premier of Ontario and the first openly gay head of government in Canada. We were introduced to her and she asked us about our trip, our home, and our plans. It was a short but friendly conversation that could’ve been had with any local Canadian, except for the menacing security guy standing directly behind us with an earpiece and closely surveying the room with no interest at all in our chat. We also met other local politicians who asked us about gay issues in Australia – we felt like ambassadors for our country. I wished we could’ve delivered a more encouraging assessment of our government’s antiquated Marriage Equality laws.

After breakfast we walked a few blocks into the heart of the city, staked our claim at the kerbside behind the barricades, and waited for the main parade that would be the concluding event of Pride. It began at 1pm, and it was 1:45 by the time the parade reached us. Three hours later, the parade was still passing by, which was an indication of its immense scale. Apparently 12,000 people participated. What was impressive was the number of services and businesses who had a representation in the parade – a national bank, the national airline, a telecommunications company, an aged care home, hospitals, doctors and nurses, trade unions, police and prison services, postal workers, teachers and schools, and seemingly people from every country on the planet. The diversity of support for taking pride in your individuality was quite encouraging. Rainbow coloured flags were everywhere. Media reports estimated that a crowd of two million people lined the streets to watch the parade, certainly the largest crowd I have even been a part of.

At the parade’s conclusion, we went back to PFLAGs booth and helped dismantle it, after we’d helped set it up the day before. It was nice to be involved in a local volunteer group, just doing their stuff, and meeting many people from all walks of life. It was an extraordinary day.