Arts, Events

“Choose Your Own” Pride

Still from Winter Kept Us Warm

Winter Kept Us Warm was filmed at the University of Toronto campus. Photo: Courtesy of David Secter

Hey! My name is Avneet and I will be one of your bloggers at Life@UofT this year. One interesting fact about me is that I am not very good at writing general introductions. I prefer to introduce myself through discussing things I love, such as:

  1. Pride
  2. Films
  3. Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Back in my high school years, Pride was a formative experience. I reminisce about the days I told my parents that I was “shopping” at “Yorkdale Mall” with my “straight” friends when, in reality, we took the TTC down to Wellesley station to check out the Pride Parade. An event which provided important escapism and made me feel part of a wonderful community.

My experience at U of T has alleviated the guilt and pressure about lying to my parents. Now, I can just simply just not mention to my parents that I attended Pride Pub at Hart House. I could just enjoy a night of dancing with my  friends and meeting new, interesting people. It’s fun to be more open and enjoy a queer-friendly space.

Photo of Avneet and friends at Pride Pub

My friends and I serving looks at U of T Pride Pub.

Although, Pride at U of T isn’t only about partying.

One fateful morning, I was awoken by a phone call from my friend Katrina. She asked me if I wanted to join her for a Pride Toronto event at the Isabel Bader Theatre at Victoria College. The event in question was a Q&A with Tony Kushner, the writer of Angels in America.

I first read Angels in America as a required reading for ENG140. As a gay man, I probably should have taken more interest in reading it for pleasure, but I actually enjoyed reading it in class and discussing Kushner’s work in-depth in tutorial. To quote Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, “I can’t believe we sit around and talk about books and get graded on it!”

Angels in America is poignant, beautifully written, and outstandingly political in its themes and messages. It is also deeply entrenched in Reagan-era politics. Mostly, it was a pleasure to watch Tony Kushner discuss it in more detail and relate it to themes in politics today. Plus, I got a ton of awesome Pride swag from CBC, so that’s nice.

Pride at U of T is not only limited to the month of June, either. Back in the middle of my first year, I attended a screening of a 1965 film called Winter Kept Us Warm at Innis Town Hall. I had never heard of the film before. Later, I discovered that Winter Kept Us Warm was an important milestone in the history of U of T for several reasons.

Still from Winter Kept Us Warm

Winter Kept Us Warm was directed by David Secter and starred John Labow and Henry Tarvainen. Photo: Courtesy of David Secter

First, the film was shot on location at the University of Toronto. You will recognize certain locations such as the corner of Queen’s Park and Hoskin Avenue, the Sir Daniel Wilson quad, and the exterior of Sidney Smith Hall. Second, it was the first English Canadian film to be screened at Cannes Film Festival. Third, it was one of the first Canadian films to explore gay themes.

The film, which is available to borrow at Robarts and the Toronto Public Library, follows the ambiguous relationship between Doug, an upper year student, and Peter, a first year student. Watching Winter Kept Us Warm and seeing U of T from both a different time and perspective was an especially inspiring experience. It definitely informed my current interest in filmmaking, which is something I will definitely talk about more in a future post.

Pride at U of T is a “choose your own” adventure. The way you choose to celebrate Pride is entirely up to you! There are countless events, screenings, and opportunities to explore queer culture on campus. The best part is that you never know what to expect. Who knows? You might enter Innis Town Hall and exit feeling inspired by a story of two young men developing feelings for each other on campus.

These are important stories to share with others: ones that connect individuals, validate their personal identities, and help them feel less isolated. For this reason, I am excited to continue blogging about my U of T experience and hope to connect with others in a similar way. Overall, I hope this served as a good introduction.