Canada’s first ever Pride-Month launched on June 1, 2016 topping off with the much-anticipated Toronto Pride Parade on July 3. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin – Lokafy’s Pride Insider – about his experience with Toronto Pride and his advice for first-time attendees. Read on to hear about some of his past experiences at Pride, along with some places he thinks one should definitely hit up this weekend here in Toronto.
So Kevin, if you wouldn’t mind telling us a little bit about you.
For sure. I was born in Vietnam and came to Canada back in 2009. Canada was definitely different from what I was used to, things looked different here but I felt good about the move. I came out two years after moving to Canada. I’d say really what made that possible for me was how strong the LGBT Community was in Canada. People who were part of the community and even those outside it seemed to all be open-minded and so I felt like I had a lot of support around me. Being openly gay is not so common and socially acceptable in Vietnam, it was amazing to come to Canada and see how different things are here.
When was the first time you attended Toronto Pride?
I have attended Pride every year since 2013 and that was also the first year I marched. One of my friends from high school, Matthew, was running the LGBT Toronto Youth Group back then. He invited me to come to the Parade and march with him. It was my first time attending Pride and I got a chance to march during the entire length of the Parade.
How did you feel when you marched for the first time?
Honestly, looking back, it was the most amazing feeling. It’s hard to describe but really, I just felt over the top. Everyone, not just members of the community, but really everyone there was just so supportive. Everyone in the city gathered around us marching and cheered us on, shouting in support. I remember this one lady that kept telling us how amazing we were. It was the most amazing feeling to stand there and witness all the love.
What advice would you give to a first time attendee at Pride?
Just ignore the negative noise you may hear around you. While the people of Toronto are amazing and the community here is strong, there will always be moments when you hear that negativity around you. In those moments, always remember to blank it out and embrace all the positivity instead. Don’t be afraid to be who you really are, and once you’re there, just go with the flow. Just go with the Parade and the celebrations.
What are some spots people should definitely hit up during the final Pride weekend?
There are so many great things going on this weekend. On Saturday there is the Dyke March which is gonna be pretty awesome. It’s starting at the intersection of Church and Bloor and will continue down Yonge Street to Carlton Street, and into Allen Gardens. It’s gonna be awesome because we’ll all be rallying around a bunch of queer local artists, performers, and activists.
Also, if you’re in town this weekend for the festivities you’ve gotta check out Treehouse on Sunday. It’s the signature event of Pride and is gonna be crazy this year. They’ve got a great lineup of DJs coming to perform and it’s gonna be this awesome rave slash dance party, I’m really looking forward to that.
Have you come across any memorable people at Pride?
When I first came to Toronto Pride back in 2013, it was my first Pride and I was still a little reserved and shy. I came across this one person who was cross-dressing. It was just so amazing to me how confident he was. He was just walking around wearing these high heels and this short dress and to me, he was the bravest man I’d ever seen. Even though I didn’t get to meet him or talk to him, he definitely had an influence on me. He gave me confidence and courage to be proud of who I am because he showed me the importance of standing up and believing in who you really are.