Irene From PFLAG Toronto

PFLAG Toronto (Parents, Familes, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is one of Toronto’s most influential Queer-relevant charitable organizations and a necessary LGBTQ resource in Queer communities across North America. In celebration of Toronto Pride, Rainbow High Vacations is thrilled to have Irene Miller, President of PFLAG Toronto, as this month's Passionate Traveller, and share a few of her thoughts about Pride Week in Toronto, and why attending Pride is so important.

Irene from PFLAG Toronto

I love Pride! I attended my first Pride Parade in San Francisco in 1978. My future husband and I were cheering on Harvey Milk and others like him who at the time were protesting The Briggs Initiative. Little did we know at the time that several years later we would be the proud parents of a gay man, and be marching at his side in Toronto’s Pride Parade carrying signs with PFLAG Toronto boasting “Proud of our Gay Son”, alongside his Bristol board cut-out, stating “Totally Rad Mom & Dad”.

For years we watched the Parade in Toronto. The colours, the costumes, the music and the sheer numbers of participants make Pride such a wonderful experience. But the true excitement, and exhilaration of actually participating in the Parade, of being part of the march down Yonge St., is unlike any other experience in my life.

The first year my husband and I marched with PFLAG Toronto we set out along Bloor Street carrying our signs saying “I Love My Gay Son” then we turned the corner onto Yonge Street and the crowd just roared – the excitement, joy, pride, exhilaration was mirrored by the faces and magnified by the voices of those cheering us on. When we drew near to where our son was standing in the crowd everyone around him cheered as we stopped to hug him! I thought I’d never feel that way again. Until the next year when we marched alongside our son – it does get better! There is nothing so freeing as walking in the Parade carrying a sign declaring your love for your gay son. And there is no better gift than having him proclaim on his sign that “My Parents Rock”.

Last year I participated in several Pride activities including the Opening Party/Media Launch at Woody’s; a screening of Shaun Proulx’s video-edit with Trans-activist Buck Angel; and filming a Toronto local-news segment of Pride Matters with Cynthia Lloyst on CP24; and attending the awe-inspiring Cindy Lauper concert at Queen’s Park. I also got my hands dirty volunteering many hours manning the PFLAG Toronto booth on Church Street; hosting the PFLAG Family Brunch at Pogue Mahone’s; and marching in the Pride Parade alongside former Mayor David Miller and Former Councillor of Ward 27, Kyle Rae, only to cool down afterwards in one of the many Beer Gardens which add volume and excitement to Pride Weekend. During the 10 day Festival of Pride Events I had the great good fortune to meet so many wonderful people from Toronto’s LGBTQ community and others from all across Canada, from Boston, from New York, Philadelphia, and California – all here for Pride! Every person I met and every hug I shared left a lasting impression on me. It is an experience not to be missed – and for those outside Toronto, this event should be on your Bucket List.

Later last year for Christmas, I received a gift of the film “Michael Tolliver Lives” (by Armistead Maupin). It was exciting when I reached the part about Buck Angel – I was shouting “I met him, and had my picture taken with him!”, and I was flooded with memories from such an impressionable event. Thank you Toronto Pride 2010 for so many lasting memories. This year, in 2011, I expect no less. I invite everyone to come to Toronto for Pride, and I invite each of you reading this personally to reach out and connect with PFLAG Toronto at our booth on Church Street on Saturday and Sunday – if you meet PFLAGers at the events you attend, come up and say “Hi” and let us know where you are from, and most importantly EVERYONE is invited to come and march with PFLAG Toronto.

Whether you are OUT to your family, or want some additional support as your explore your own Pride experience, PFLAG Toronto can be your family at Pride. March with us if you want to share that family/familiar feeling in the Parade – come make some new friends – or catch a wave or a hug from us as we march past you on Sunday. Please know that PFLAG marches for our own kids, our friends and colleagues, and we march for you as well.

Irene Miller

President, PFLAG Toronto

I want to go to Toronto

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