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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

Many interpret a pilgrimage as a religious rite of passage. Muslims travel to the Mecca. Hindus travel to the River Granges. Jewish people make their pilgrimage to Old Jerusalem, to the Wailing Wall where they write out their prayers and tuck them into the cracks of the wall.

My pilgrimage was spiritual, not religious. I consider attending Pride to be a form of a spiritual pilgrimage.

There are a few key aspects that distinguish a pilgrimage. First, it is an accessible and communal event. Not every pilgrimage is a big event, however they generally instill a sense of community. Second, it must pay homage to something. That something may be a religious figure, or in the case of Pride, homage is paid to those in the queer community who led, and continue to lead, towards liberation.

Celebrating queerness

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I spent my middle and high school years stuck in the cramped closet trying to hide my queerness. When COVID hit, Pride was cancelled. For awhile, the super tiny and cramped closet I was in felt suffocating. As someone who has chronic anxiety, being in that closet felt like a never-ending panic attack. You know — the one during which you’re hyperventilating and feel like your skin is crawling, though you also feel paralyzed? But this year was different — I took my sister to our first Pride event, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier.

With this having been my last summer before university, I wanted to embark on a rite of passage into adulthood. I thought about taking my sister glamping (where there is proper plumbing, A/C, and feels more like a spa retreat), or going to a concert in Toronto or Montreal, but those didn’t feel big enough. Then I found out that the Capital Pride was to take place in the last week of August, and I almost started jumping for joy. This was the perfect way to celebrate the end of my high school years and the beginning of adulthood and my selfish years. It was also the best way to celebrate the part of me that had been closeted for the past six years.

Pride 2022 – The Parade

The walk down Lisgar Street with my 12-year old sister was quiet. It was like walking down a dark tunnel. We could see and hear the festival taking place at Kent Street up ahead. It felt like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. We were so close, yet it still felt like we would never get there. But we did. I felt like a child at the Santa Claus parade, except now I was the adult here.

It was weird, at first. We just stood there watching people cheer and clap. I had no clue where we’d fit in, which is exactly how I felt about my sexuality throughout my high school career too. We eventually found our place. Everything clicked. We were no longer outside the cheering, but were finally a part of it. We stood under the blaring sun at the corner of Kent and Lisgar, pumping our fists, clapping, and cheering for those in the parade. I didn’t feel like a spectator, rather, I felt like I was dancing within the parade. I learned that this is what community was supposed to feel like. It was like reuniting with long-lost family. The sun kept us warm, like the embrace of a good hug. Occasionally, someone smoking would pass, but the smell would always pass with them. We were cheering really loudly, but my throat never went dry. I felt that as long as I was within this community, all my needs would be taken care of. I was home.

There were so many floats carrying so many people, all from different walks of life. There were drag queens, dancing Indigenous folks, people raising support for queer refugees, and many folks representing companies (like banks, humanitarian organizations, and churches). As a proud supporter and fanbase newbie of RuPaul’s Drag Race, seeing drag queens in person was my favourite part. I would carefully pick apart each float for drag queens and became slightly disappointed if there weren’t any. There were so many bubbles too! At my job, we give free bubbles to all the kiddos that come by, so it was fun being on the receiving side this time. It was truly magical witnessing so many people supporting a great cause. It was especially magical being in the same place as drag queens blowing bubbles!

“Happy Pride!” we would excitedly exclaim to those passing in the parade. There’s so much truth to that statement. There was so much happiness in the atmosphere. It made me think that if that much happiness could remain in the world permanently, people would be excited to talk about foreign relations on the news and maybe even algebra.

The second part of that statement is the ‘Pride’ component. We call it Pride because it’s a celebration of a liberated group who can actively take pride in themselves. They no longer need to cower, or fear being placed in a psychiatric ward or prison cell for being themselves. While so much injustice still occurs worldwide against the queer community, it is important to bask in the successes we have achieved.

1969 was the year of Stonewall, and what has followed has been truly remarkable. Drag queens and transvestites were at the forefront of the riots. They were a group of people who were frequently attacked by the law, but over the past fifty years, have formed an entertainment empire, which continues to inspire so many. While there is so much to celebrate during Pride, drag queen culture has been the most quintessential piece of it.

pride 2022 – street festival

After finishing up at the parade, my sister and I continued through Lisgar Street all the way to Bank Street. We slowly walked alongside the kiosks set up. Most of them were ones we had seen walking through the parade. There were a few religious organizations campaigning too. We stopped to listen to what one of the Pentecostal groups had to say.

They explained that they were looking to expand their reach by being inclusive to everyone. I explained that I grew up in a Christian household and attended a Catholic high school, so I really appreciated meeting religious groups who emphasized being inclusive. Both environments that I grew up in were openly against the queer community. Due to this, I’m not a religious person. I believe in a greater being, but I cannot align my beliefs to one institution after all the persecution that is justified under their names.

There were also a few local businesses selling Pride merchandise that we supported. I like to speak with the folks who run the businesses I support. One specific person who was selling pride flags, sunglasses, and pins, informed me that he had been robbed the previous night. He was incredibly disappointed that such a community-oriented celebration would be targeted in that way. I expressed my condolences for him having gone through that. While his story did catch me off guard, it also did not present itself as a surprise to me. The queer community has been subject to so much discrimination that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that during mass events like Capital Pride, people are subjected to greater attacks.

Walking through the street festival on Bank Street was a nice way to end our Pride journey. We had the experience of listening to several folks explain what Pride signified for them. I found it incredibly important, listening to specific vendors explain how they were trying to make up for past events, specifically the persecution caused by major institutions.

I look forward to following the work of these groups and to see what they bring at next year’s Pride. I am filled with pride after celebrating with my family and peers. After years of marginalization and confusion, I am proud to have made my pilgrimage to Pride. I no longer wake up feeling suffocated and exhausted about my sexuality. Pride blessed me with the ability to feel more confident in who I am and what I can inspire with that. I want to help my fellow closeted queers end their state of panic, having to stay in their closet, out of fear of retribution from their close ones.

Being queer is beautiful. Our community is entirely unique. I am proud to finally have the confidence to say that I am pansexual.

Hannah is a first year Journalism and Humanities major. She is passionate about Queer culture and everything coffee-related. You can either find her at a coffee shop writing her next article, making coffee for a group, or with her head stuck in a book.