YMCA on the Rooftop

Out And About At 13

When I was 13 years old I spent the weekend in Toronto with a girlfriend at her Mom’s friends condo in Downtown Toronto. Larry was an old friend her Mom had known since high school. I’d known him and his partner from my girlfriends house, our Mom’s were good friends. Many a night was spent in hysterical giggles at the antics of Larry’s partner, Bruce. Yes, Larry and Bruce were gay.

That weekend in Toronto with them was probably one of my favourite memories, as well as being a defining moment in my life. It was that weekend that I learned what being gay really meant.

Gay Pride 2006

Mom wanted me to know that there was a world out there outside of our small village and their small town ideas. She wanted me to see Toronto, walk the streets, eat in cool restaurants. She wanted me to understand who Larry and Bruce were, and to learn that love comes in many forms.

They took us to Mr. Greenjeans at the Eaton’s Centre right downtown, we walked down Church and Yonge and they pointed out all the prostitutes, also noting which were male and which female. My eyes were bugged out of my head. They took us to Canada’s Wonderland and pretended to let us wander around on our own…but instead spent the entire time stalking our every move. They told us they had gone to see some show, it wasn’t till a few years later we learned the truth. That night we fell asleep on the couch. I was woken up and I remember hearing them talking in the kitchen – they sounded like my parents. I don’t know what they were talking about, but they were upset about something. All of a sudden I heard one of them say “you can’t look me in the eye and say you don’t love me”. I was stunned.

They really really sounded like my parents – and I knew my parents loved each other. I knew not everyone had what they did … but that it wasn’t always easy despite the fact they loved each other. They loved each other, but sometimes you may not “like” each other so much. I learned that love is not prejudice, it doesn’t hate. Love is about the strength it takes to carry on, despite the fact it is hard. Love is forgiving, love changes, love grows. Love can change you.

Larry and Bruce were together till Bruce died of Aids in the late 80’s. He was one of the first in Toronto, probably in Canada for that matter. At the time we were told he died of Cancer, which he did; Cancer caused by AIDs.

I’ve been to the Gay Pride parade in Toronto twice. Each time I thought of Bruce and thought of how much fun he would have had. Bruce was all about the showmanship…he had a penitent for bright flamboyant colours – because  he was a bright flamboyant soul. Man, was he an incredibly unique soul. Tears of a clown I think though, really. Him and Larry balanced each other out. Larry was far too formal, and Bruce livened him up.

YMCA on the Rooftop

Gay Pride in Toronto is INCREDIBLE. I one year met a couple who had flown all the way from Australia to come to Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. I learned the first year I went that Parade is really more of a celebration of what it means to be human…in all it’s many variations. It’s like a HUGE love-in festival that covers blocks and blocks of Yonge St. While everyone waits the 2 hours till parade time (you have to get a good spot) you can hear laughter and various groups singing away to songs such as “YMCA” or “I Will Survive”. I tell ya, I could hardly keep the camera steady I was laughing so hard, or singing along.
Years later now, after that weekend with Larry and Bruce, I wonder why it even matters they were gay? Regardless though, I am thankful to my Mom for being so open-minded. Because of her openness and faith in Larry and Bruce, I was able to see a side of life I would otherwise have NO chance of experiencing until I was much older. It was like Grandma teaching me table manners, or correcting my grammar. It was one of those many lessons in life about how to really get out and enjoy life, see things, and don’t let stupid barriers of any sort block our souls desire for love and companionship.

That is how I see the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto. It shows us how to be, how to celebrate all the many unique expressions of love, hope and faith in humankind.

If we all stood up to bigotry we could change the world

16 thoughts on “Out And About At 13

  1. Wow, Paula, so much here to just marinate in. Love your mother. What a wonderful lesson for a 13 year old. I love your definition of love: ” I learned that love is not prejudice, it doesn’t hate. Love is about the strength it takes to carry on, despite the fact it is hard. Love is forgiving, love changes, love grows. Love can change you.” And I love that video. Of course, Imagine is one of my favorite songs, but the concept and headlines are amazing. We can change history, one post at a time. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo


  2. What have you done to me? ;-) Wonderful sharing (and writing) here Paula – you just pulled me skilfully into your world and journey, made me cry, made me giggle and made me think – Bless you :-).


  3. YAY! What a smart mama you had and what a wonderful lesson to learn so early in life. If only such openness was shared more often, imagine the hate that could be eliminated from this world once and for all. Great post Paula! :-)


  4. I wish I’d known that it was okay to be different when I was thirteen. I moved to the other side of the Earth with my partner to be accepted. Ironic that gay marriage is close to being made legal in UK, not in Australia. We have a similar parade in Sydney. Thank you for sharing your story, it was encouraging to read. Robert


    1. Thank you Robert, it means alot to me that it resonated. Its been roaming around in my brain for a while, waiting to be written. I just wasnt sure how to put the pieces together.


    1. :-) It is an amazing time. It’s incredible seeing the many different people…I mean, where else can you shop for a skirt with a transvestite? Now really? And no one thinks a thing of it. Such incredible freedom.

      And oh yeah…those boys are beautiful. ;-)


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