You may remember that, this time last year, we brought you the news that a group of queer and trans gamers from the Toronto GayGamers were marching in the city's annual Pride Parade, which draws over a million spectators from all over the world. This year the club, which holds social gaming-themed events throughout the year, plans to expand its celebrations to include a booth and activities in the event's sprawling Street Fair, LARPing, some seriously co-ordinated cosplay (Pokemon fans take note...) and, if they can muster the numbers, contingents in Pride Toronto's Dyke March and Trans March. I sat down with Toronto GayGamers' Jeremy Kingston and Michael Storey to discuss the effect that last year's Pride Parade entry had on the group's numbers, their plans for this year's festivities, and their hopes to ensure that the club is as inclusive as possible for all members of Toronto's diverse queer and trans communities.
For the interview and for details about how to get involved, follow on after the jump.
I met Jeremy and Michael on the campus of Toronto's Ryerson University, not far from the heart of Toronto's oldest LGBT neighbourhood, and just down the road from the Pride Parade's route. Though the club, started by readers of GayGamer.net and members of its forums, is a few years old, last year was the first time that the group marched in Pride - an entry that was a resounding success - and I was curious to learn about what the members had thought up for this year. The costumes, in particular, were hits.
"The guys in the cosplay division have worked very, very hard to get ready for this year," Jeremy told me.
"This year there's going to be one Pokemon for each colour of the rainbow, plus black and white," Michael added. "That's what's going to be leading the parade [contingent] this year, with people in and out of costume behind them. And we do have a link on our Facebook page for people to sign up to let us know they're coming."
And what about Saturday June 30th's Dyke March and Friday June 29th's Trans March?
"We're looking for people to fill in not only [the Pride Parade on Sunday, July 1st] but also the Dyke March and Trans March," Jeremy told me. "For the Dyke March we're looking for enough women to hold up the banner, and according to the organizers it's a women's only event; so, we as gay gamers [a note to our international readers: In Toronto "gay" refers almost exclusively to male-identified people - H] will definitely be out in the street on Saturday with a booth, and we'll have as much presence as we can. While our name may be GayGamers, we try to be as inclusive as we can."
I remember there being conversation about that the Toronto GayGamer's Facebook page, about how to be inclusive with a name like GayGaymer. "I understand where that comes from," I piped in, "that it's originally an American site, from a country where 'gay' can refer to men or women, but that's not true in Canada."
Jeremy nodded and smiled, "Like how 'soda' is good for Coke or Pepsi?"
I laughed. "Exactly!"
Jeremy went on to tell me that while they're still looking for ladies to and trans people to march, the group will be out in force to represent at both parades, whether that be in the parade itself, cheering from the sidewalks, or at the Street Fair. "And we're doing something new this year, which is the booth in the Street Fair. It'll be open on Saturday and Sunday and there will be cosplay. This will actually be my first year in a booth, so I'm looking forward to it."
"And, at the booth we'll be doing Pokemon LARPing," Michael told me, "so people at Pride can come to the booth and they'll be turned into a Pokemon trainer. They'll be able to do mock-up battles with the same people who'll be in costume in the Pride Parade."
Since there was such a great turn-out in 2011 for the Toronto GayGamer contingent, and such a positive response from the crowd, I asked if that appearance had any effect on the group's numbers.
"Oh, a lot," Michael assured me. "I'm one of the people who wasn't a member of the group before Pride last year. I saw them in the parade, like a lot of other people apparently, and the numbers exploded from there."
Jeremy added that during 2011's Pride he had only been a member of the group for a few days. "I was really proud to see us out on the street and demonstrating," he continued. "I wasn't in it, but I tried to give my support and shout from the sidelines."
I told them I may have shot them with my super soaker [uh, yeah...full disclosure: I'm a member of this group, even though the only event I've shown up for is Pride... -H] One of Pride Toronto's long-standing traditions is the presence of water guns, super soakers, firemen and -women drenching the crowd, and onlookers with hoses making pouring down from above from their condo balconies and from the tops of roofs.
Michael warned me: "We've got Vaporeon this year, who is a water Pokemon. He's going to be armed this year... He has his water gun already, and this bubble LED light-up thing..."
After last year's articles about the Toronto GayGamer's Pride plans, I got a lot of feedback from readers wondering why there wasn't such a group in their town. For my last question to Jeremy and Michael, I ask, "What would you say to people who would be interested in starting up a group like this?"
Michael told me, quite simply: "Start one. There are resources available; there's Facebook, there's the GayGamer.net website, on Redit there's the gaymer sub-Reddit. Look for the resources around you, and if you don't see something, start something."
Sounds like the spirit of Pride to me.
Thanks to Jeremy and Michael for their time and their thoughts, and Happy Pride everyone.