Thrills beyond roller coasters at Gay Day at Wonderland
A visit to Wonderland is a guaranteed good time, and when PFLAG’s Gay Day injects happy pockets of gays into the mix, the festivity intensifies. My eccentric aunt, a thrill-ride aficionado, can’t resist chatting with any and everyone. She eagerly announces to a visibly straight couple, waiting in front of us in the line for a ride, that she is here with her nephew and his boyfriend because, “Did you know it’s Gay Day?”
“It’s Gay Day? When’s the parade?” is the excited response. There is no official parade, but the hordes of gay teens in matching “Legalize gay” T-shirts, the bevy of bouncy bears, the sashaying drag queen and the laughing children holding hands with their gay dads is pageantry enough. Games of “straight or gay?” keep us busy — it’s remarkable how many visual signifiers trailer trash and gay hipsters share, the quality and content of their tattoos the only real difference — sometimes.
Torrential rains don’t dampen enthusiasm for the barbecue buffet, and the explicitly gay space within the park relieves any lingering attempt to act straight, so the party begins. Proud FM is handing out T-shirts and it’s chilly, so I — after saying hi to host Deb Pearce — pull one over my wet T-shirt before lining up for food.
Post-dinner, our merry band is approached by a soft-spoken woman who wants to know, “Where did you get the T-shirts? My daughter would really like one.” Proud FM is out of swag and I am warmer after eating, so I peel off the T-shirt and give it to her. It’s a minor gesture — better the shirt be worn by a spirited smalltowner than lost in one of my drawers — but the woman unexpectedly bursts into tears. Her story spills out: “My daughter is now my son, and I don’t know how to help or what to do.”
Living in my fabulous gay bubble means that trans is about as much of a concern as hair colour; it is easy to forget that outside the bubble things are very different. And a mother who is making an effort shatters that complacency and serves as a stark reminder that we all had to deal with coming out. That lost and frightened feeling still lurks in memory. Jayme Harper, the beautiful bear who is president of PFLAG Canada, barely needs to look up from his burger to point the woman to a PFLAG representative from her hometown. The two women embrace and at least two lives start to get a bit better. It is more thrilling than any roller coaster ride.
The next day we learn that Jack Layton has died. He was a true friend and champion of the gay community. He and Olivia were fixtures at celebratory events, but they also never hesitated to get into the trenches and fight. In a world dominated by Fords and Harpers (and Hudaks?), it’s easy to feel lost and frightened. A voice
that could be relied on is no more. Layton’s philosophy — “let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic” — is now in our hands. We, like PFLAG, need to embrace and support each other and ensure that this amusement park we call life is all thrills and no spills. Grief is inescapable, but if we honour Layton’s legacy, eventually every day will be Gay Day.