This Pride Month, FASHION is giving space to local LGBTQ2S+ voices in the creative community to share what it means to them — and how they’ll be celebrating.
Like many folks in the LGBTQ2S+ community, Toronto-based comedian and writer Arianne Tong has seen Pride as an opportunity to let loose and celebrate. “Historically, the whole month of Pride has been great, but the one weekend specifically with the parade in Toronto, has been the ultimate release,” she says. “To not experience that over the last two years is pretty disappointing. There’s nothing like Pride weekend — it’s Christmas for gay people. I really miss it.”
At least Tong and others have fortunately been able to find connection online through a plethora of virtual events in the absence of large, in-person gatherings. And many of these outlets, including Tong’s weekly pop culture trivia event called Question Everything, will have an additional donation angle in the coming weeks.
The June 23 QE game, for instance, will be a “Super Queer” version of the night, and proceeds from player registration will benefit Across Boundaries. “I’m focusing on how to help [communities] in some way,” Tong notes of the give-back initiative; Across Boundaries is centred around providing access to mental health and addiction services to “marginalized and racialized communities locally and across Canada.”
Tong also taps Phil Villeneuve from queer culture collective Yohomo — which will host a virtual dance party June 26 — and his musical bingo ‘do on June 18 as another must-attend fête this Pride month. Five dollars from every ticket sold will go to Friends Of Ruby, a Toronto-based resource for LGBTQ2S+ youth that offers support from transitional housing to creative programming and mental health/wellness services.
While Tong rides out the IRL vacancy of some of her favourite festivities like the hip hop-centric party Yes Yes Y’all and Cherry Bomb, the “fun flirty dance party for queer women and friends” (as per the tagline on its website), she’s found a way to spice up her virtual trivia nights from the comfort of home.
“I’ve mandated costumes and themes. I didn’t really get into costumes before COVID-19 [but] it’s a good opportunity to jazz up being indoors,” she says, adding that recent QE events have included a “Disney villains” vibe that saw Tong dress like Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
Whimsical get-ups aside, Tong also keeps a sense of great expectations despite limitations when it comes to this month’s Pride activities. “I’m way more pumped for this year than last year,” she says. “There was a thick cloud of depression and not knowing what was going on or for how long. [But] we’re starting to be vaccinated, and people are more optimistic and looking forward to this maybe being the last year where this is the situation.”
As restrictions begin to ease across Ontario and the rest of Canada, it’s indeed cause for even more revelry — safely, and mostly more subdued, of course. “I might go to a park and put down a blanket and have a picnic with my girlfriend and celebrate being together,” Tong says, noting that you don’t need to go big to be proud. “We need to continue the spirit of Pride, which is to celebrate being out and open in public.”