June is a pretty exciting month for a lot of reasons. We’re on the brink of summer, the Stanley Cup final is happening, the draft is coming up, and, if you’re queer*, it’s Pride.
Pride is really important for a lot of LGBT people. It reminds us that we’re part of a community that extends beyond our queer friends and coworkers. It reminds us of our shared history and struggle, and of how far we’ve come. It reminds us that we’re not alone, because even if we can’t or don’t attend Pride, we know that it’s happening, and that means something.
But, most of all - at least for me - it reminds us that we can be unapologetically excited about our own identities. We can be and have and feel pride. Which is something that I sometimes forget as a gay fan of sports.
Putting aside any discussion of the politics of Pride, the parade and events each year can be a great place for LGBT people to see themselves and see their supporters. It’s good to have unions and public servants, political parties and community groups, and even corporations, host events and send members out to the parade, because, ultimately, representation matters. Even if, cynically speaking, that representation is designed to court my gay dollars.
So June is an exciting month for many reasons, but for me, the start of June, and Pride Month with it, marks the start of me wondering who exactly MLSE and the Leafs are going to have at the Toronto Pride parade.
Last year, Kyle Dubas was there for the Leafs. That was exciting, because, as a gay hockey fan, I love knowing that the assistant GM of my team acknowledges that LGBT fans exist, and that our issues are real, and that he’s willing to take a walk down Yonge Street facing water guns and glitter because of this. I don’t remember any players showing up last year (although maybe some Toronto Furies did) but Troy Bodie was definitely there the year before. Classic. I thought for about a day that Morgan Rielly might make an appearance, but no luck. Still, I did get a tiny little thrill when I saw him tweet about what was going on that weekend in Toronto, and include Pride.
Draft, SickKids Gala, Pride parade, youth hockey camp. Excited to be back in Toronto for the weekend! #six— morgan rielly (@mriles4) June 25, 2015
I felt that tiny thrill because basically I will take anything as a gay sports fan. I hoard any minuscule crumb of acknowledgement if it means I feel more comfortable in sports spaces. You can bet I know every Leaf who’s done a You Can Play video. You can count on the fact that I check twitter on every mildly gay occasion to see what my team is doing to recognize it. You are also probably safe to assume that if and when a pro hockey player comes out publicly, I will start actively crying, even if they are a Chicago Blackhawk or a Bruin. It would mean that much to me as a gay fan.
This year at Pride, I hope some players show up. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to see Kyle again, because I would. But I want to see Leafs and Marlies and Furies in their sweaters and sunglasses smiling and waving at me as they walk by and I want to think, ‘those people have my back.’ I want to know that people on the ice playing the game 82-some-odd times a year have walked past thousands of LGBT folk and thought, ‘I’m happy to see these people, too’.
Mostly, though, I want to imagine that, at the beginning of June, a pro player starts to feel a little bit more pride than normal, just like I do.
*This word isn’t for everyone. I feel comfortable using it as a member of the LGBT community, but I recognize that not all people have the same relationship with the word queer.