In recognition of June as Pride Month, we sat down with a series of queer individuals and couples to ask them about the evolution of their pride and how they have grown over the years. And from June 20th to 24th, $1 from the sale of every Evolution product will go towards the Tegan and Sara Foundation, a charity that fights for health, economic justice, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.
Marilyn and Arti have been together for six years. They met through work years before they started dating, while Marilyn was still married to a man and Arti was in another relationship. After Arti’s devastating heartbreak and the end of Marilyn’s marriage, something finally clicked. We met with them and their baby, Roan, at Hair of the Dog, a cozy neighborhood pub on the edge of Toronto’s LGBTQ enclave, Church Wellesley Village, to hear their love story and learn about the evolution of their pride.
How are you celebrating Pride this month (if at all)?
A: The Toronto Public Library is putting on Drag Queen Storytime and we want to take Roan to that. That would be a first for us. Last year, we were pregnant during Pride and came with some friends of ours and did Family Pride, so we’ll do that again this year. For us, Pride isn’t necessarily about some event or dance so we usually like to stay in town, stick around, and hang out with our friends.
Why is this pub so special to you?
A: I took a long time to come out and I really struggled a lot. I moved into this neighbourhood and bought a condo nearby. I didn’t want to move to the Village because I thought, “people will think I’m gay and I’m not gay.” But I moved into the Village. Eventually, I came out to some friends. My very first Pride, I had been traveling from London, England and I got back really late. We were walking up and down Church Street and ended up here. After that, this is where I would kick off Pride. We would sit on the patio and watch the Trans March and drink and watch music. When Marilyn and I had our first Pride together, I was like, “We’re coming to the Hair of the Dog—this is where we gotta kick it off!”
M: I didn't come out until 6 years ago, after Arti and I met, and I feel like this place was part of that. We would come here for brunch, for drinks, for Pride. We got to know each other on this patio. We spent our first Pride together here listening to music and chatting with friends.
When you think back on who you were before you were together, how have you grown? What’s changed?
M: When we first met, Pride was really about going out and having fun but now that we’ve bought a house together, we have a baby now, I guess our perspective on what Pride looks like is a little bit different. For me, I feel like it’s more important than ever. People forget about the political side of it. It’s about having fun, but it’s also a very important part of our lives in terms of raising our daughter in a world that isn’t always queer-friendly and being able to openly demonstrate that we’re here. It’s more about being able to stand up and say, “We’re here and we’re proud.” We have a kid and she should be proud of it too. Whatever her gender, whatever her orientation.
A: For me, having been closeted the way I was with my cultural background, it was really difficult to come out to my family, and jumping that mental hurdle that everyone’s gonna hate me or shame me or laugh at me. The coming out process is continuing. There are lots of members of my parents’ Indian community [to whom] I have not openly come out. What’s changed is that, in terms of pride, I’m becoming more and more visibly out. There’s no hiding that we have a child together. I struggled with thinking that my mom isn’t telling anybody, but she doesn’t have to. We can’t hide that we have a baby together.
What does it mean for you to be proud?
M: It’s about feeling comfortable in your skin. Being visible. And being able to openly demonstrate your love for another person, without fear of incrimination, without fear of people judging you, and knowing that you’re safe to do so. Closer to home than we would like, it can still be a very dangerous thing to be out. Pride is about all of those things. That you can love each other safely, that you can demonstrate that you love yourself and show it to the world. You don't have to hide it or be ashamed.
A: For me, it’s about raising a kid in a family of love and inclusivity. That's what pride is. Raising her in a home of open values and letting her be who she wants to be.
M: And for her to not be tied to heteronormative rules that are imposed on [babies] before they even know the world.
A: Hopefully, we are going to be responsible for what the future will be like just by bringing better people into the world.