Pride, In Their Own Words: Shane Percy
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Pride, In Their Own Words: Shane Percy

Over the course of this week we’ll be talking to members of Toronto’s queer community about what pride (and Pride) means to them.

A dancing crowd at Grapefruit, held in Fly Nightclub.

Fly (8 Gloucester Street)
Friday July 1, 9 p.m.–4 a.m.
$15 before 11 p.m. / $20 until midnight / $25 after midnight

The best thing about throwing an event during Pride is the spirit—everyone is (extra) happy. Grapefruit attracts a diverse group of people. In addition to our hardcore classic dance music fans, we’ve seen a few politicians, and even the occasional celeb. Having visitors to the city for Pride mixing with our regulars adds a nice element to the proceedings.
I started Grapefruit nearly nine years ago as I was looking for something fun to do, a project, so I thought I would throw a party with music I really liked. I have always loved playing music and sharing what I love with people. As fate would have it, an acquaintance of mine owned a bar and was receptive to the idea. That was our first venue, which was small compared to Fly Nightclub, where we hold Grapefruit today. Grapefruit has been part of Pride celebrations for over five years now.
The roots of the relationship between dance music and queer culture go back to the ’70s. Gay liberation and disco culture collided back then and they’ve remained linked ever since. Music is such a force, one of the ultimate forms of self-expression, something gay people were always discouraged from doing.

Shane Percy is behind long-running Toronto dance party Grapefruit.

When things began to change after Stonewall, it was a natural fit. If you look back to the early days of house (and even hip-hop) music, the songs were often political or contained social commentary. This is integral to the history of gay culture; dance music and gay liberation go hand-in-hand. We are hard-wired to create it, enjoy it, and need it. Producing events like Grapefruit is very satisfying for that reason. When you see people really enjoying what you’ve done, it’s a good feeling.
The first Parade I attended was in 1998 and it was really amazing. It was great to see all these wonderful people out there, our allies working hard and sticking up for us—before we had equal marriage rights. That’s when I was first really proud of our community, and also proud to be Canadian. Toronto has been very good to me; I love the city and think the only way is up. (However, I’m not sure the current mayor really understands cities, which is a bit worrying. We’ll see.)
I’m looking forward to seeing the PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) people in the Parade. It’s moving because it means Pride isn’t just for us, per se. Seeing parents supporting their children is also a huge part of Pride. In a sense, Pride isn’t just about “being gay,” it is a political statement saying “I am proud of my gay son/daughter/friend.” In Canada we’re lucky; it rarely goes this well for queer people in most other parts of the world. You always need allies… we should never forget the many straights who also speak out for equality and doing what is right. We need them, they are wonderful. Pride is for them, too. PFLAG always get the loudest applause.
Photos courtesy of Shane Percy.