Love Wins: a traveller reflects on Pride in Toronto

Bruce Walker: Love WinsThis series of letters, Love Wins, comes to us from Bruce Walker, a human rights advocate, gay man and retired lawyer who  served the LGBTQ community in Toronto for many years. Bruce is an avid traveller who is passionate about the fight for equal human rights, everywhere.

You can read more of Bruce’s travel adventures on his website.

June 27, 2015: Celebrating diversity

TREAT: Love WinsThis morning I am back in cloudy, cool Newmarket after a remarkably exciting evening in Toronto. The Trans* Pride March was very well attended and a lot of fun. The March took a long time to pass because there were so many people. So, as a concession to my age, I left before Chas Bono and the stage show in Yonge-Dundas Square. I am sure it was also a lot of fun. There were an infectiously large number of happy people celebrating their diversity. It was a very joyful occasion.

Earlier that evening I had dinner with Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, one of the couples who were plaintiffs in Canada’s marriage case begun by their wedding on January 14, 2001. Considering the ruling in the United States, we had a lot to celebrate. After dinner we went downtown to the Trans* Pride March. We saw many people we knew. There were a great many jubilant people celebrating diversity. Their mood was just as celebratory as our mood. People of my vintage grew up in an era when homosexuality was considered a disease and sex between people of the same gender was criminal behaviour. My generation has been damaged by living in such an environment. That is why it is so very refreshing to see scores of young homosexual people happily enjoying themselves without ever being exposed to such negativity. It was amazing. It is thrilling to see what we had hoped to accomplish actually occurring.

People of my vintage grew up in an era when homosexuality was considered a disease

Kevin, Joe and I walked merrily through the Church Street Village and then over to Yonge Street to watch the March. When we got to the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, we came upon some self-proclaimed religious zealots hatefully denouncing sexual diversity. We were delighted to see a large group of leather-clad young people of all genders appear on the corner. This group then proceeded to stand in front of the religious zealots and hide them behind rainbow flags. They began chanting and drowned the religious zealots out. It was a very peaceful counter protest that ended when the religious zealots decided they were wasting their efforts, packed up their stuff and left. It was so much fun that I am sure I heard someone joining in the chanting who sounded a lot like me.

The corner of Yonge and Wellesley was where thousands of us gathered in 1996 to protest the defeat of Bill 167 in the Ontario Legislature. That brought back a lot of memories for me. So much so that when the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto’s group passed us, we joined them and marched with them to Yonge-Dundas Square.

It was a great evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Take care. Cheers!!!!! Bruce

July 1, 2015: Life is good here.

MCCTPride2015: Love WinsHello from cloudy Cambridge. Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day seems an appropriate day for reflection on life in Canada. We have so much to be thankful for. Life is so good here. Homosexuals can go to sleep here and not have to worry about whether or not they will lose everything the next day because of their sexuality. This is really remarkable because it is relatively recent. This is still not the case in far too many places in the world.

These past few weeks have been outstanding. I have experienced things that I never expected would ever happen on this travel adventure. Hearing Michael Coren speak at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and apologize for his past discriminatory behaviour toward the homosexual community was certainly a pleasant surprise.

The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States approving equal marriage was also something I did not think would happen in my lifetime. What a wonderful turn of events this is. The United States is the most influential country the world has ever seen. This decision means so much to equality-seeking people around the world. We are on the brink of having a more inclusive world. The phrase “Love Wins” is resonating around the world. It is time to work to make it happen.

I intend to speak out much more for equality

The discussions in many religions around inclusivity and sexuality are refreshing and productive. Those religions who advocate turning ones back on a family member because of sexuality are anti-religion, anti-family, and cannot survive. Love and inclusiveness are fundamental to human existence. It has always been a mystery to me why this is simply not embraced in some religions. I imagine it is because loving, as well as hating, always come from within one’s person. There are a great many people who unfortunately hate themselves and take it out on others. What unhappy lives they lead.

Another surprise for me was the interest in learning about our path to equality. There is still much work to be done and to have some of the focus on where we started and how far we have come is refreshing.

The mood at Toronto Pride was beyond anything I have ever experienced. It was fabulous. The theme “Love Wins” could be seen in the faces of all the happy, dancing people there. I am still in awe. It certainly makes all the fighting worthwhile. It is a wonderful world if we just embrace all that we have been given.

Also, I have since learned that the leather-clad group who congregated on Yonge Street on Friday evening to protest the religious wing-nuts left their party to engage in the protest. The old guard (like me) can pass the torch to the new guard with confidence. We are in very good hands

All of this has recharged my batteries. I am now ready to rejoin the fray and I intend to speak out much more for equality.
Happy Canada Day!!!!! Love to all.

Take care. Cheers!!!!! Bruce

July 4, 2015: Love wins

From Heaven Above: Love WinsHello from warm, sunny Cambridge. My time in this part of Ontario is coming to an end. Tomorrow I start my westbound travel adventure for this summer. I hope to visit British Columbia via Edmonton and a number of other places along the way. I am looking forward to it and to spending some time on Vancouver Island. Before I leave I will enjoy a barbecue with a number of friends in the Waterloo area this afternoon.

I have had a wonderful time here in this part of Ontario. The Toronto Pride festivities were certainly a highlight.

This was made even more so by the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in favour of equal marriage. We have certainly come a long way.

The frenzied howling by the right wing nut extremists in the United States reminds me of the time here in Ontario following the first same-sex wedding in Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto of Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and also Elaine Vautour and Anne Vautour, on January 14, 2001. We heard the same tired and useless howling. No preachers set themselves on fire here either.
We had many death threats against MCC in general and Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes C.M., in particular. The threats were taken seriously by the police and so MCC Toronto met and held services under police protection. In fact, Rev. Hawkes was provided a bullet-proof vest to wear.

The death threats rose to a crescendo around Toronto Pride in 2001. While Lloyd and I had marched in many Pride parades over the years, that year I was surprised at the number of people who came out to march with MCC Toronto in the face of the death threats. I was told my several people that they could not stay away and be frightened by the death threats. Some even told me that if we were to be shot and killed they did not want to be left behind and wanted to perish with us. These people made me proud to be among them and to have them as friends.

Well, the police also took these death threats seriously. They did a lot of work and thankfully there were no incidents. I credit the police with preventing tragedy from happening. Eventually the death threats subsided and by the time equal marriage was granted in Ontario in 2003, they were no longer an issue. The howling will eventually subside in the United States as well.

We have certainly come a long way. Love wins!

Take care. Cheers!!!!! Bruce