Pride and Remembrance Run is an annual 5km run/3km walk that takes place on Saturday morning of the Pride Festival Weekend. It was founded back in 1996 by three triathletes and, as it says on their website, “it was dedicated to partnering the themes of pride and remembrance with community celebration and personal achievement.” People have many reasons for participating in the Pride Run, whether it’s running for a loved one, for the community, or to raise money for the charities Pride Run donates to. Personally, I run every year and I think it’s the most beautiful LGBTQ tradition I have.
It took me into my early 20’s to figure out my sexuality and the journey wasn’t easy. I come from a conservative well-to-do Russian family so when we came to Canada and I had to start with nothing, not even a language, the pressure to succeed was overwhelming. Nonetheless, I did what I could and now I am proud to be where I am: having lost my thick Russian accent and in the beginning stages of my wealth management career.
When I came out to my mother and friends it was not the easiest experience. I grew up believing that LGBT people were not ‘natural’ (whatever that means) and that it would bring shame to the family. It took a lot to rid myself of the old world beliefs. When I first came out at work my manager had a terrible reaction, making me feel like he was trying to shove me back into the closet. When I came out to my straight friends a lot of them did not know how to react and I have lost touch with them. Not to mention that my mother refused to talk to me for a full year.
I sought out help — help from the same community I was trying to find myself in. Through the SOY program at Sherbourne Health Centre I found a mentor who has helped me through a lot! The best part is that she helped me by just being honest about her relationship, being a proud queer woman and being there when I needed her the most. She saw me crying, she was honest and over a short period of time she became like family to me.
But probably the very first time when my mentor made me feel like I was a part of her family was when she invited me to run with her and her wife in the Pride Run. She said it was the one tradition that she always kept during Pride. I remember being so nervous about going. It felt like I was coming out to the world and it was terrifying, even though I had already come out to the majority of the people who knew me. For some reason this felt different; I was coming out and running with my gay family, along with the LGBT community at large, and raising money for LGBT charities. When I got there, I was overwhelmed — overwhelmed by the crowd, by the acceptance, by the excitement of the crowd and by my mentor’s love, which I felt then more than ever before. When the crowd started running and the confetti went off I started tearing up, because it finally felt that the wounds I carried with me were starting to heal, that I had found my community. A sense of belonging came over me for the first time in my entire coming out process. I felt lightness to me, like a heavy backpack had just come off my shoulders and I could breathe easy again.
Since that run I’ve had many more moments like that: when my mentor invited me for Christmas at her place and we decorated cookies all together, when I was nervous about introducing her to my girlfriend, and when she introduced me to her friends. But none were as impactful as that first Pride Run we ran together! It has become my favourite tradition with my gay family and I would not want to have it any other way. I encourage you all to participate, raise money and cry tears of joy, like I do every time I cross the finish line at the end of the race.
Toronto’s Pride and Remembrance run takes place on June 24th at 10am at the corner of Church and Wellesley streets. For more information please visit their website.