On being … a big pineapple

By Ingrid Sapona

For the past couple weeks now, here in Toronto you can’t go anywhere (no, I’m not talking about the combination of gridlock and road work that’s gripped the City for some time) without seeing some flag or symbol proudly displayed on a car, bike, hat, or you name it. And, if you’re like me, you’d probably recognize one or two of the symbolic references, but certainly not all of them.

Yes, part of this surge in displays of symbols around Toronto relates to the World Cup. I know that World Cup fever is quite wide-spread, but Toronto’s size (now the 4th largest city in North America) and diversity means that we have large populations of people from many of the nations in the Cup.

I distinctly remember the proliferation of car flags four years ago because my sister and a friend of hers were here and they were astounded by how many flags were – pardon the pun – foreign to them. Of course, I was almost as clueless until the Toronto Star did an article that identified the flags. I haven’t seen such a guide for this Cup, but I’m hoping that maybe now that we’re into the knockout round they’ll print one.

In the run-up to this year’s tournament, I was looking forward to seeing cars festooned with flags and I was a bit disappointed with how few there were initially. Then, just before the first round I noticed that for $3 you could pick one up at the grocery store. (My neighborhood store had flags from four countries – I wonder if the choices varied in other parts of the City.) After that, they started appearing on cars everywhere.

Another flag that’s on display everywhere in Toronto this week is the Rainbow Flag, the symbol for Pride, which, when capitalized like that, also has a special meaning that some folks may not be familiar with. “Pride” events, according to InterPride’s website, are events such as parades, marches, rallies, festivals, arts festivals, cultural activities, events and other activities “organized for people identifying as Lesbian, Gay Men, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and/or other emerging sexual identities”.

Toronto, which has had an annual Pride festival for over 30 years, is hosting WorldPride 2014 (also known as WP14TO – for those who like abbreviations). The 10-day event is the fourth such event ever held and the first one in North America and the City is – pardon the pun – pretty proud.

Major international events like the World Cup and WorldPride always generate a flurry of newspaper articles and even if I’m not particularly interested in the event itself, there’s usually some items that catch my eye. A few of the Pride-related stories I found interesting explained the history and symbolism of the rainbow flag and the abbreviation LGBTTIQQ2SA.

The symbolism of the rainbow seemed obvious, but I didn’t know that each colour represents something specific. (For the uninformed – like me – here you go: Red: life; Orange: healing; Yellow: sunlight; Green: nature; Blue: serenty/harmony; Violet: spirit. And, in case you’re wondering what happened to Hot Pink (sexuality) and Turquoise (magic/art) they’ve been dropped – not for any symbolic reason – but because they’re difficult colours to manufacture.) One other Pride flag-related tidbit that was mentioned is that before the rainbow flag the symbol for gay pride and the gay rights movement was a pink triangle. Apparently we have Harvey Milk to thank for moving away from that symbol, which was a Nazi concentration camp badge to identify homosexual prisoners. (Thank you Harvey – that thought is just too grim for me…)

As for what LGBTTIQQ2SA stands for, that was quite new to me. I thought I was pretty current knowing that LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bi, and transgendered. But, most news stories used this long abbreviation and the WP14TO website explains that “LGBTTIQQ2SA is an abbreviation used to represent a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies.”

I have to admit, I’m still not clear on all that (the two Qs are the most confusing to me). I think it’ll be interesting to see – over time – whether that abbreviation sticks. I think that, just as the rainbow flag’s been paired down to six colours, something less than 11 letters can come to represent the members of the Pride community. (I understand that they’re trying to be inclusive – indeed, I’d say that the abbreviation even covers me – I fall into the allies group. But it seems to me that by being so specific, you run the risk of alienating others.)

In reflecting on all the symbols people are flaunting here in Toronto this month, I’ve been feeling kind of out of it. Not being the flag waving type, I needed to find something else that I could display. Fortunately, on my most recent trip to the grocery store I found just the thing: a nice big pineapple. So, I picked one out and I’ve put it on prominent display in my kitchen window. What could be more appropriate and welcoming than the time-honoured symbol of hospitality? Mind you, it may not last long – I’ve got friends coming over and I’m planning on serving pineapple mojitos…

© 2014 Ingrid Sapona


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