As I was heading over to Food Basics to buy some Harvest Crunch (on sale at 2 boxes for $5 this week) I was halted for a few minutes by the Pride parade heading up Brock Street past the market.
I had a flashback to 1985, the first year I moved to Kingston, and the uproar that happened when two young men staged a “kiss-in” on the steps of City Hall on August 8.
I understand that the LGBT community had been appealing to the Kingston City Council to be able to hold pride celebrations of some sort for a couple of years and were being rebuked. In order to draw some attention, this kiss-in, in a kind of make-love-not-war theme, was organized on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in a kind of combination effort to promote some tolerance of sexual diversity and remind people that love is better than war.
The “ceremony” drew about 400 onlookers and the next day there was a photo on the front page of the Whig Standard. What followed was outrage. People threatened to cancel their paper for showing this “excessive and offensive” behaviour. “ It just made me feel like throwing up.” said one. “We were disgusted to see those two homosexuals in a loving embrace.” wrote another.
It took several years of requesting but finally in 1992, Mayor Helen Cooper proclaimed a Pride Day in Kingston.
This year, the walkway in front of City Hall has been painted in rainbow colours and the parade had hundreds of folks who believe that there is strength in diversity walking together through the streets – Businesses, Church groups, Military, police, friends and even our federal Member of Parliament (who happens to be the son of the mayor of the city in 1985).
Watching the cheerful and colourful parade pass by, it made me happy to know that our society has grown much more tolerant and accepting of diversity. I was also delighted last week to see this sign on a few lawns in Kingston and around the university. I am glad that my grandchildren will grow up in a society that acknowledges diversity as a strength, not a threat.
One would hope that we can continue to celebrate our differences – religious, sexual orientation, political, cultural, – rather than see them as divisive. Who knows, eventually, I may even become accepting of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.