Five gay things (other than the parade) worth checking out at WorldPride

Five gay things (other than the parade) worth checking out at WorldPride

(Image: Karen Stintz) (Image: Karen Stintz)

We don’t choose to be gay, but we certainly choose where we’ll be from June 20 to 29, when the international WorldPride 2014 extravaganza descends on the streets of Toronto. While some will opt for intimate backyard soirees with friends, others will hit the outdoor beer gardens, art shows, theatrical offerings and drag revues in festive (and sometimes fetish) regalia. Still others will flee to Huntsville cottage country, eschewing Pride flags and statement jewellery for Muskoka chairs and cold-certified, salt-of-the-Earth brew-haha.

For those who choose to stay in town, the two million expected visitors, inevitable line-ups and hundreds of events—up to and including June 29th’s parade—can make the idea of showing pride seem a little daunting. Here are five best bets that will get anyone off his or her (or, xyr?) rocker and into the gauntlet of gay.

For radicals: the WorldPride Human Rights Conference

Queer rights advocacy is just as important now as it was in 1969 and 1987. The speakers at the WorldPride Human Rights Conference know this all too well, and have travelled from across the globe to share their research on the state of queer issues in 2014.  From June 25 to 27, international experts will host talks on topics like human-rights violations, gender identity, poverty, youth and adolescence. Don’t miss: Jane Traies’ “Women Like That: Lesbians Over 60”; Dr. Frank Mugisha and Monica Mbaru’s plenary session on queer rights and violations in Africa; and two Jian Ghomeshi–hosted talks—one featuring Russian-American author Masha Gessen discussing LGBTQ rights in Russia after the Sochi Olympics, and another with trans activist Tamara Adrián. Plenary sessions from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. are free to attend throughout the conference.

June 25–27. Plenary sessions FREE. Various locations, details here.

For Madonna fans: Truth/Dare: A Satire

Salvatore Antonio as Madonna. (Image: Sam Pryse-Phillips) Salvatore Antonio as Madonna. (Image: Sam Pryse-Phillips)

There’s no doubt that Madonna is clinging to the last vestiges of her pop career these days (see: here, here and here). But when she was good, she was a diva, and there’s no greater illustration of that than the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare, which follows Madge during her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour. Actors Salvatore Antonio (Antiviral, Saving Hope and this KFC commercial) and Adamo Ruggiero (Degrassi: The Next Generation) sought to make Pride an opportunity for interactive theatre, so the duo transcribed the ’90s doc and set it to stage, complete with dance breaks to get the crowd participating. They call the resulting performance Truth/Dare: A Satire. The piece debuted during Pride last year, and it has already garnered some international attention: Father José Xtravagnza, choreographer for Madonna’s “Vogue” video and subject of the queer doc Paris is Burning, will perform on the last night of this year’s run.

June 25–29. $20 advance, $20 door. The Citadel, 304 Parliament St., details here.

For bitches: Bitch Salad

Andrew Johnston. (Image: Drasko Bogdanovic) Andrew Johnston. (Image: Drasko Bogdanovic)

It’s not too late to sign up for camp. Comedian Andrew Johnston’s Bitch Salad is in its sixth year at Pride, and this year is expected to be the to-ast of Toronto. It has recently come to our attention that Chloë Sevigny—or, actually, Drew Droege as Chloë Sevigny—will be a guest star at the annual comedy revue. Droege will be joined by the U.K.’s Katherine Ryan and locals like Steph Tolev and Laura Di Labio. With so much talent in one room, these acts are sure to tickle your funny bone. And for everything else, well, there are bars with extended-hours licenses during Pride to take care of that.

June 27. $25. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St., details here.

For reality-TV addicts: Starry Night

(Image: Adore Delano/Facebook) (Image: Adore Delano/Facebook)

This is a warning as much as it’s a suggestion for something to do. Starry Night, at the 519’s Green Space, will be incredibly busy, there will be lines for days, and it will still be something to see. The final four from the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race will be performing, which means anyone who crowded Church Street’s many viewing parties to watch Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, Courtney Act and Darienne Lake during the reality show’s run—and they were always at capacity—will be in attendance. Each of this season’s favourites are expected to perform two numbers, so there will probably a lot of shade from Del Rio, drunken party ramblings from Delano, legitimate singing from Act and whatever it is that Lake is known for.

June 26. FREE. 519 Green Space at Cawthra Square Park, 519 Church St., details here.

For Scarborough-dwellers: East Side Pride

There’s nothing in the gay rulebook that says pride is a downtown state of mind. Family-friendly East Side Pride kicks off at 2 p.m. on June 26, and it’s going to be hosted by Big Brother Canada breakout, um, star (?) Gary “Glitter” Levy! The free-to-attend event is organized by East Metro Youth Services, and its mission is to unveil the LGBTQ diversity found in Scarborough. Performances pepper the east-end attraction, from cabaret darling Ryan G. Hinds to an end-of-night performance from queer-positive dance troupe Ill Nana. East Side Pride finishes at 9 p.m., which should leave plenty of time to scoot downtown afterward for a late-night escape.

June 26. FREE. Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Dr., details here.