“It is Pride, not Halloween!” the Gentleman said to me, not completely under his breath, when he saw a flamboyantly-costumed revellers on Church Street last night. He didn’t seem to mind drag queens (where would Pride be without drag queens?) but people dressed in unrelated guises, vampires or Star Wars characters, irked him. What he doesn’t realize is that everyone’s clothes are costumes, and on the crowded, sweaty streets of the village last night, discernable subcultures of the gay community were on abundant display.
Having not seen the parade, I went downtown to join the Gentleman and his friends for some crowd watching. He has two refugees staying with him at the moment, a couple who had to leave England but cannot return to Iran. They were both tall, handsome and dressed in jean shorts and trendy t-shirts. They strutted in front of us, braceleted hand holding braceleted hand. They looked like a mirror image of each other.
They were a little shy at first, but when we settled in at Starbucks (the Gentleman: “I don’t know what to get! Max, what is that?” “An iced-venti-latte.” The Gentleman: “An Iced. Vente. Latte. Please.”) one of them began entertaining me with animated stories, such as how he met his boyfriend at an underground gay party which he was invited to by a guy who had a crush on him (“He stared so angry at me!”), and how, the time he caught his ex cheating on him with his boss he almost ran over him in his car (“Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking; it was a new car!”)
They weren’t the only ones who were dressed like each other. All over the strip, and we walked between Wellesley and College about four times, were fashion archetypes, often times grouped together for easy recognition. There were, of course, the Abercrombie/Hollister crowd, with their tight boldly-labelled t-shirts. (The Gentleman was in this category). I have noticed that, while I associate this style with a faux-upperclass-Connecticut-young-Republican-Caucasian-ness, many ethnic minority gay men dress this way. Those clothes are sold all over the world and it’s possible, especially for new Canadians, that they associate those clothes with the North American gay way of life.
There was a group of stylish black men I wish I had had the confidence to take a picture of. They were all tall, half wore thick horn-rimmed glasses, half were in black and white striped shirts, and they stood there, clustered together, talking. Another subset that I had been aware of, but never seen in such numbers, were the guys dressed like, and I mean this in the best way possible, a 1920’s archaeologist’s butt-boy: mid-century parted hair, brow-line glasses, white button-up shirts and formal grey, black or khaki shorts. Although I am aware that this is the look my current style is closest to, I would never attempt the shorts, and they are the key to the whole thing. There was even a quartet all in the same glasses, all with shorts and suspenders, who had made custom t-shirts with their four names printed in Helvetica.
I will remember this year as the year that Pride began to be threatened by deep political divisions. For better or worse (and by that, I mean ‘for worse’) the Israel-Palestine issue has been brought into Pride and, like an oil spill, will be sticky and dirty and incredibly difficult to clean up. It will be a test of the Pride committee as well as the queer community (queer communities, we should say) to see if we can have find unity through our diversity the same way we can with fashion.