I have seen parts of Pride parades in the past, but usually avoid them because I don’t like crowds. While visiting Saskatoon a few months ago, I was able to catch the whole parade, on a drizzly, windy, cool day. I thought, “this is fun!” I got a couple of pride bracelets and necklaces that I wore for several days afterwards, ‘proud’ that I was part of something outside of myself.
Several months later, I had the privilege of staffing the Humainologie merchandise booth at Calgary Pride. Again, not keen on the crowds, I avoided the parade and headed straight to our booth. It was a cool, almost drizzly day. I wore the bracelets I had saved from Saskatoon, but otherwise I was dressed in drab tones and did not wear the ‘colours’.
One of our interns who was scheduled to work the same shift with me, came decked out in a skirt, a fuzzy pink jacket and a pair of wings, stating he had had a ‘fairy moment’ while getting ready. He commented on how warm, engaging and open the crowd was. When he said that, I suddenly became aware of exactly how uncomfortable I was. As a cisgender, white female, I was quite out of my element. I was certainly enjoying watching but I somehow was not totally engaged in the event as a whole.
I have always considered myself an LGBTQ2+ ally. I have a number of very good gay and lesbian friends. And with recently delving into creating films within the trans and queer community as part of my work with Humainologie, I have come to know, befriend and admire a number of transgender individuals and have heard their stories of transition. They – and their stories – moved me deeply and have fostered in me an increased desired to promote empathy and understanding, using my still very limited knowledge to educate others.
But the experience at Pride made me realize, on a much deeper level, what my ‘cis white privilege’ really means. This was and is not and will never be my lived experience. I do not need to wait for a special once-a-year event to feel free to show myself as I really am. I do not walk down the street facing and fearing judgement (or worse) for being who I am. I can go about my daily life being and fully expressing who I am as though it were the most natural thing in the world. And I had deeper insight into the fact that so many people in our community, whether they’re on the LGBTQ2+ spectrum or they’re persons of colour or have visible disabilities, either physical or mental, face these judgements and fears every day – EVERY DAY – for being who they are.
I came away from the event humbled. And recognizing that how I walk through my days – naturalized into my straight, white privilege – may impact others in ways that I am yet to discover. I will continue to work at becoming increasingly aware of my own attitudes and behaviours in relation to others and to understand and be willing to change those in ways that actively acknowledge others’ experience as different from my own.
Contributed by Christine Jensen