I scored big at last week's North By Northeast music and film fest - women everywhere onstage, and not just singing and shakin' their booty, though that can be nice, too. They were playing instruments, blasting out hard rock. Stepped into the Reverb to see the Most Serene Republic and guitarist Emma Ditchburn. Took a few steps down the street to check out Ballistic Edna at the Bovine and then just 10 strides over admired anti-rock star Ian Blurton's classic rock chick bassist, Katie Lynn Campbell.
I was totally stoked by this experience. It felt like the scene had gone through a mammoth transformation since my band, No Frills, played the very first Pride party outside the Grange 25 years ago.
Just after registering this thought, I asked for directions to the bathroom and one of the servers at the Funhaus directed me to the men's washroom.
Okay, some things don't change. But my attitude toward incidents like that has. I used to be outraged by the lack of imagination that I associated with people who assumed anyone with short hair and no makeup was a guy. Now I shrug it off - I think it's part of my newfound pleasure in my gender fluidity.
Other things are different, too. I no longer know every out dyke in the city (good), hot young lesbians don't smile at me any more (not so good: obviously, I'm more like their mother than a potential sex object) and Parliament's going to pass that same-sex marriage bill (excellent, though my partner and I will not be touching the altar with a 10-foot-high chupah).
But the biggest changes are in Pride. In 1981, every band in the city that had a lesbian in it - there were, count 'em, three - was asked to play that night. Check out the Pride stages this year. Well over half the performers - holy shit, some of them straight, another new trend - are women. (See sidebar, this page, for Pride tips). Some of that has to do with the fact that the prime Pride organizers this year, startlingly, are female.
But most of it has to do with young lesbos wanting to feel the power of playing amped-up rock, to express anger or heat or politics or their right to party - or get laid - via the most high-energy vehicle on the planet. (See Hunter Valentine cover story, page 68.)
I remember feeling that energy at the Grange in 81. The idea was that No Frills would begin the set just as we caught sight of the marchers making their way onto the site.
Pride that year was inspired by the fury that surged in the wake of the bathhouse raids. The goal of the march was simple - visibility. We're here. We're queer. Get used to it.
You could tell by the sorry numbers that the risk in that visibility was great. Over a thousand pissed-off queers had hit the streets when the cops raided the bathhouses just weeks before, but that was at night. This was broad daylight, and fewer than 500 (for the record, Kyle Rae says more, but we're both ballparking) proud gays showed up to participate.
The brave souls reported lots of verbal abuse, the strangeness of having a police chaperone and the premonition that this was the beginning of something that was going to have a huge impact on the city.
I think about the more than 1 million people - at least 10 per cent of whom don't identify as queer - who crowd Gaytown on Pride Day, and laugh at my memories of those several hundred marchers straggling onto the Pride site.
The Grange had filled up with people in the time between the beginning of the parade and its return to the scene of the big party. I remember the look on the faces of the marchers as they made their entrance, to the cheers of partiers rocking out to our band's signature anthem, Kickback. There was joy, inspiration and palpable relief at being out of the hostile streets and back in the embrace of their community.
It was so gobsmackingly fabulous that I didn't notice the Citytv cameras taping the band until the set ended, at which point I was looking straight into the camera.
My heart stopped. Twenty-five years ago I wasn't officially out of the closet.
Yes, things are definitely different now.