A day to be proud of

Every year in June I suffer from intense nostalgia for Pride Week in Toronto. It's one of the largest organized gay pride festivals in the world including a large Dyke March, a Trans March and the Pride Parade. Having evolved out of the mass protests over the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids, it has grown into a ten day event that infuses millions of dollars into the local economy. I started attending the main parade about twenty years ago, so it's been incredible to see it grow over the years. I miss it SO much.

 Toronto Pride 1996

Toronto Pride 1996

So it was with incredible excitement and glee that I learned Pride was coming to Florence for the first time ever, last June. Toscana Pride was a week-long series of events that culminated in the Saturday parade on June 18. Pride parades around the world typically take place in late June to commemorate the Stonewall riots

Unfortunately the one event I attended - a show by Nina's Drag Queens at the 'Pride park' in the Limonaia of Villa Strozzi - was disappointing. The performance itself was great, but it started an hour late, and there was not much to do or see while waiting - just a few stands with books and pamphlets and a little bar serving pizza and beer. There weren't all that many people there, either. I am obsessed with Rupaul's Drag Race and had never been to a drag show so I was really excited to see what it would be like. But the audience was so quiet, it felt like a book reading! My friend who was there with me, a Florida native, said it was nothing like the rowdy shows she's seen back home.

 Nina's Drag Queens

Nina's Drag Queens

The experience made me dubious about the kind of turnout the parade would actually attract. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Organizers were expecting 10 thousand people, and some 30 thousand came out! At some very late point, the parade route was changed to pass by Florence's cathedral, which was obviously a huge deal.

 With my dear friends Liz and Alexandra in front of the Duomo.

With my dear friends Liz and Alexandra in front of the Duomo.

And even though the Florence municipality refused to give its official support for the parade, the mayor Dario Nardella decided at the last minute to attend. What a difference from Canada where our prime minister attended the parade with his family. In fact, Andrea warned me not to expect anything like I was used to in Canada; he even worried things could get ugly and refused to let me take the poppet.

 I feel especially proud that this is the leader of my native country now that we're in the era of Trump.

I feel especially proud that this is the leader of my native country now that we're in the era of Trump.

Fortunately, he had nothing to worry about. The atmosphere was so joyous and full of love. I and seemingly everyone around me was just beaming from ear to ear the entire time. 

 The crowd gathers in Piazza D'Azeglio at the start of the parade.

The crowd gathers in Piazza D'Azeglio at the start of the parade.

 Like pride parades around the world last year, there were lots of references to the Orlando massacre.

Like pride parades around the world last year, there were lots of references to the Orlando massacre.

 "Nature loves diversity, society unfortunately not."

"Nature loves diversity, society unfortunately not."

 Yas gawd.

Yas gawd.

This old woman's smile was one of the most moving things about the entire day. I couldn't help but wonder what her story might be. 

 "LGBT parents with kids from heterosexual relationships"

"LGBT parents with kids from heterosexual relationships"

 "If you're a fag, say it!" (a famous line from the movie Il Ciclone - if you understand the context, please let me know in the comments!)

"If you're a fag, say it!" (a famous line from the movie Il Ciclone - if you understand the context, please let me know in the comments!)

 Gathering in Piazza Independenza after the parade.

Gathering in Piazza Independenza after the parade.

 Rainbow toes and anti-slut-shaming leggings.

Rainbow toes and anti-slut-shaming leggings.

This year the Toscana Pride parade was held in Arezzo on May 27. And it's one of twenty parades happening all over Italy! Others include Rome on June 10, Milan on June 24 and Bologna on July 1. I sure hope to make it to at least one of them.