What Pride Means to This Former Degrassi Star
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What Pride Means to This Former Degrassi Star

How Adamo Ruggiero taught the meaning of Pride to his European suburban neighbours—and what he learned in return.

Adamo Ruggiero, best known for his role as gay teen Marco Del Rossi on Degrassi, is an actor, host, and digital producer based in Toronto. Here’s what Pride means to him.

Photo by Russ Martin.

Photo by Russ Martin.

For me, Pride conjures up a series of incriminating images from my 20s. Short shorts and tank tops. Vodka roadies in water bottles. Daytime make-outs. Sassy quips. And climbing the back alley fence of Crews and Tangos to skip the line, only to be caught red-handed by a very cute, but very big and angry security guard.

Pride was my rebellion from the stifling, straight suburbs. It was the party at which I came of age as a gay kid. And yet, just like my own gayness, I had a complicated relationship with it.

Images of Pride shocked my European, suburban community. As the only openly gay kid on the block, they expected me to answer for it. I had been working tirelessly to show them gay people were “normal” and it felt like the progress I made kept slipping backwards. I think for them, Pride was too extreme and, like a sudden movement, it sent them running. I had to earn their trust all over again.

I would question “Why does Pride need to be so loud?” It wasn’t until I found my own voice as a queer person that I understood. After years of living as invisible minorities, we needed to make ourselves visible. We use bright flags, thumping music, floats, and glitter—anything to let people know “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” It felt so much better to replace straight appeasement with overt otherness. No more apologies. My gayness became my rebellion.

In my 30s now, Pride is not something I do to rebel but a chance to spend quality time with those in my community. As we LGBTQ Torontonians continue to disperse throughout the city’s many inclusive and diverse neighbourhoods, we find ourselves further away from each other, and further away from queer hubs like the Village. Pride gives us an excuse to reconnect, to revive that universal bond and stand united. It’s a moment to celebrate our culture and share in our commonalities, an opportunity for us to welcome LGBTQ newcomers to our city and country, and learn about one another in the ever-expanding LGBTTIQQ2SA acronym. It’s a reminder to challenge the divisions that threaten to separate us in our very own community. It’s a month of inclusion, and this month’s Pride theme exemplifies that: “You can sit with us.”

Every year, Pride reminds me that no matter who you are, where you’re from, how you dress, how you identify, who you screw, or how much money you make—if you’re queer and I’m queer, we’re family. Ironically enough, the European suburbs taught me that.

Happy Pride month! I just hope I can get into Crews after this.