I thought I'd surprise my parents, who were planning on coming downtown to watch the parade with me, my sister, and our friends. My sister was in on the scheme, and kept telling my parents "Raymond's nearby, he's almost here." And then suddenly, there I was - on top a limo, in the parade. I leapt off, rushed to the sidelines to hug them, and then shouted "THESE ARE MY PARENTS!"
*THUNDEROUS CHEERS FROM THE CROWD*
It was such a blast, and my mum later said that she wanted to be in the parade. I informed her that she can't just "be in the parade", but that she has to actually be a part of something. "Well, maybe I'll be a PFLAG parent!" Sure, you do that, I thought. Well, she did. And so did my dad.
The very next year there I was on the sidelines with my sister and our friends, watching as my parents marched by. I shouted, got their attention, they ran over for hugs, and then continued on their way. At that moment I looked around and saw that everyone around me was doing the exact same thing I was doing: crying our eyes out, with happiness.
What would follow the next year would be a new tradition - our marching together as a family. Easily the most wonderful feeling in the world. In an age where we're still dealing with LGBT kids being kicked out of their homes, mistreated by their parents and shunned by society it is still vitally important that we march. My dad holds high his "I LOVE MY GAY SON" sign, because too many fathers don't, and won't. My mother speaks out because mother's in Russia and Uganda cannot speak out and express how proud they are of their LGBT children.
My parents went from being PFLAG volunteers, attending the monthly support meetings to give support to other families, to manning the 24 hour support line phones, to my father becoming the Treasurer and my mother becoming the President. I remember that phone call from Dad while I was living in Brooklyn, "Oh, by the way, Mum is the President of TorontoPFLAG now."
Oh, ok. How about that.
It makes perfect sense as long before I came out my mother and father were already stepping up to be A Mum and A Dad to many friends of my sister and I, whom for whatever reason didn't have parents in their lives in the capacity that they were needed. A friend who moved to Toronto from another city, or province or country found a *Mum and Dad* in my parents.
Fittingly, they've devoted their retirement years to being a Mum and Dad to the LGBTQ communities of Toronto - and to anyone who needs a hug, a shoulder, a listening ear and a support.
In 2013 my Mum was even honoured as the Grand Marshall of the Toronto Pride Parade. Yes. THE GRAND MARSHALL. My Mum. My wee Scottish Mum. Icon.
This was my mum's final public speech for PFLAG, at city hall honouring the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia.
A fitting send-off. Yet that's not all. Just recently she was honoured by Toronto City Council for her work on behalf of the LGBTQ communities. What an honour to see my wee Mum get a standing ovation from city counsellors.
She has become a local gay icon. She has become a Mum to all those who need one. She has helped put families back together, and through speaking in schools across the city has helped children learn to love themselves, and support their peers.
Every year on Mother's Day her Facebook wall is FLOODED with messages of "thank you! i love you!" from so many people for whom she has become the best mother-figure they've ever known. Every gay friend that first met my Mum said the same thing: "She's just like Debbie Novotny!" - Sharon Gless' PFLAG Mom character on Queer as Folk.
I will forever be grateful to have been born to my mother and father. More than grateful. I have a Unicorn Existence, being born gay to this family in this city in this country in this time in history. They inspire me, they humble me, they empower me, and their love and strength is what drives me every day.
Thanks, Mum and Dad. I love you more than words will ever be able to accurately express. Happy Pride. Enjoy your retirement. You've changed lives, you've saved lives, and you inspire us all.