But some who stay put avoid the mammoth Carib-bean fete, feeling there isn’t a place for the queer community in Caribana. Well, that’s simply not true!
According to the official Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival website, the Caribana festival began in 1967 and has since become “North America’s largest cultural event.” The celebration spans three weeks and is best known for its glitzy over-the-top parade, which rivals the sequined, skimpy attire and free-for-all spectacle that is Pride Toronto. But absent from the Caribana website is any mention of queer or queer-friendly goings-on, and an email to the official organizers was left unanswered. So I did a little digging.
I turned to Toronto’s own DJ Blackcat, who’s been in the event world, both as DJ extraordinaire and prolific promoter, at home and in Montreal; Washington DC; Dallas; New York; and Chicago since 1992. He’s also credited with being a founder of Toronto’s Black Pride, a series of parties with dates running alongside Caribana’s. DJ Blackcat believes that there is a place for queers in Caribana and that many visitors are searching for other queer people and things to do.
Fatima Zain, founder of Coco Becky Couture, makes many of the iconic feathered and bejewelled parade costumes. She loves Caribana’s flamboyance and revelry and knows many queer participants at all the headline events: “The parade is fab and fun, and who doesn’t enjoy dancing in the street half naked?” She, along with a few other Caribana lovers I spoke to, feels that a lack of specific queer representation doesn’t equate homophobia.
But DJ Blackcat feels there should be some “official” queer promotion. “The fact that it’s not connected to the website yet is not a bad thing, as word of mouth has done a lot of publicity on its own,” he says. “But I hope that in the coming years that will change, because there are lots of gays and lesbians who come into the city who don’t know that it exists.”
He’s hopeful that queer representation will increase over time but feels strongly that breaking taboo in the Caribbean community will require strength of numbers. “We are a part of this community and have much to offer it. Once we’re ready to address the committee, then things can change. It is a taboo topic, being gay or lesbian in West Indian communities, but acceptance will happen once the outcry from our community proves our demand.”
Ryan Kerr often enjoys dancing half naked in the street. Special thanks to Blackcat for hooking us up with the über-friendly and cute underwear models!
Very comfy long-johns from Shared.
Available at the Drake General Store.
Hipstripes boxer briefs
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