The Pride Parade last month, despite the rain, was full of excitement and celebration as always. Of course there were protesters trying to dampen the spirits, but the best part about Pride is that the love far outweighs the hate. It is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community—the people, the history, the accomplishments—and it is one of my favourite events of the year. But as uplifting, validating and liberating as Pride can be, it can also be difficult, discouraging, and even invalidating for some.
Here’s the thing. For me, what makes the Pride Parade so meaningful is, above all, the unapologetic visibility. It marks the one day of the year in which LGBTQ+ people refuse to be silenced and ignored. It’s a loud and visible celebration of ourselves, of an identity that society often dismisses and ignores, if not outright condemns. We gather and say, “we exist and you cannot ignore us or erase us. We are here, and we are not going to disappear just because you are uncomfortable with our very existence.” Everyone breaks out the rainbows and the glitter, and walks around sporting obviously gay/bisexual/queer/etc. messages on their clothing. You can wave at strangers, hug them, and feel a sense of solidarity because we are all there for the same reason: to support one another. It’s validating, affirming and incredibly powerful.
The difficulty arises when you identify as a minority identity in the LGBTQ+ community. (Now, I am only one asexual person, and I won’t try to speak for everyone else, but I suspect others might feel similarly.) Rainbow flags were everywhere. Logos and slogans with various lesbian or gay puns were abundant. Stands featured pins and cups and clothes and jewelry themed with lesbian and gay messages or colours. Bi- and pansexual flags and merchandise were rarer, but they still seemed to be reasonably available.
I saw only one asexual flag. One. At the entire parade, the entire day. And I found only a singular stand that sold asexual merch. Both last year and this year, I was dressed up in the full ace flag colours—which took a fair amount of time to organize and coordinate—and maybe five people understood without my needing to explain it to them. Even among my friends, even among the people on our float, only a few people recognized it—and some of them were asexual themselves. Last year, it was bitterly discouraging; this year, I knew better what to expect, but it was still difficult.
You might ask, but so what? Asexuality is statistically a rare identity—a 2004 study by Anthony F. Bogaert placed the prevalence rate at around 1%—so in a way, it makes sense that it would be harder to spot asexuals and asexuality. The problem is that the Pride Parade is supposed to celebrate the entire LGBTQ+ community. And when this space that is supposed to celebrate all of us—this one day when people gather to encourage and support and validate one another, to speak up and make ourselves heard—doesn’t seem to recognize us, it’s profoundly disheartening. It’s hard to feel like I have a place, that I belong and can claim a voice, when so few people seem to be aware of even my existence. And if there isn’t room for me here, in this community, where am I supposed to go?
I don’t want to paint the Parade as some terrible, dismal experience. I certainly don’t mean to say that I resent the prominence of the rainbow gay flag, or that I want other identities to have less representation. It’s just that the experience is a little bittersweet, and I wish it didn’t have to be.