Articles, Princeton writings October 14, 2003

Acceptance of gay pride means more than passive toleration

by Kai Chan

One of the highlights of my summer was attending the Pride Parade in Toronto, Canada. However, when I mention to Princetonians that I took part, I am often met with questions of why I would attend, given that I myself am heterosexual. My reply has always been, “Why not?” The parade is fun and is attended by over a million revelers, most of whom are, like myself, straight. Yet even as I explain this point I am also often met with silly comments, which are usually meant in jest but speak of the overall lack of comfort that many here at Princeton have with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. Perhaps it is because I grew up in Toronto (the world’s most multicultural city — yes, even more so than New York) and I grew up with very tolerant values, but for whatever reason going to Pride was something that I did not have to wrestle with: “Hey I’m back in Toronto; when and where is Pride?”

In all honesty, however, I was not always very open to the LGBT community. Growing up in a Chinese household (which tended to be socially conservative) I never did embrace the LGBT community. Even when I was in college five or six years ago I always kept my distance. Like most people here at Princeton, although I did not discriminate against the LGBT community, neither did I have many LGBT friends or attend any of their events or frequent the LGBT neighborhoods. It was not because I had any prejudice against this group; it’s just that for whatever reason our paths seldom crossed. And looking back, that was a real shame. I was living in the most diverse and tolerant city in the world, yet I was enjoying diversity at a distance. I do not believe it is enough for us to be simply tolerant. We need to strive harder and change tolerance to a warm embrace. Of course, we will need help from the LGBT community as well. After all, the only reason that I had not attended such events in the past was that none of my LGBT friends bothered to invite me.

In any case, the Pride Parade was one of the most fun events I have attended, bar none. The parade itself had dozens of wild and colorful floats, the marchers were dressed in elaborate costumes, and the DJs on each float were playing mind-numbing electronic dance music. Indeed, the music was so powerful that spectators were just dancing everywhere (on the street, on the roofs, in the shops, etc.). And it wasn’t just the parade. There were events that went on all week to celebrate Pride. Several streets were closed off to vehicular traffic, and many a parking lot became a makeshift dance floor. (For electronic dance music lovers, the music being played that week was heaven!)

I now look at the Princeton population and shake my head when I see that many are living diversity at a distance. Sure, you might be proud to say that you have all these different cultures represented in your classrooms, and all these different opinions in your hallway. But at the end of the day, where do all these people fit into your life? On the other hand, here at Princeton where there is such a divide between undergraduates and graduates, why should I expect to see otherwise amongst other groups? Lastly, good luck to same-sex marriages in Canada — who am I to block other peoples’ happiness? Just as we now recognize that we were wrong in blocking interracial marriages in this country not so long ago, so too will history show that the current opposition to same-sex marriage is wrong. But then again, why anyone (heterosexual or otherwise) would want to get married is beyond me!

Kai Chan is an economics graduate student from Toronto, Canada.

The Daily Princetonian: “Acceptance of gay pride means more than passive toleration”

Published: Tuesday, October 14th, 2003