Friday, July 06, 2012

A Dainty Yellow Hat: Fit For a Queen

(picture of Yonge Street with crowds on both sides of the street watching a parade go by. A green banner, from Vita Community Living Services is followed by a scooter carrying Joe in a white broad brimmed hat and Ruby carrying a Supersoaker, beside them is Dave wearing a bright yellow shirt and a matching yellow pillbox had with the veil pulled down daintily over his face)

click on picture to enlarge


I somehow want to tell you about my yellow hat and the day it had in the Pride parade.

I first saw it in the windows of Reflections, a shop near where I live, and noticed that it perfectly matched my yellow shirt. I decided, immediately, to buy it to wear on Pride day in the parade. It's been hanging up in our hallway ever since, calling attention to itself simply by being wildly different than the other hats it shares space with.

Something about me.

I have been fat pretty much my whole life. I learned to hate being centered out, hate being noticed, hate the judgements in other people's eyes. I learned that because I was more, I was less than others. I learned that I needed to dress in ways which de-emphasized my size - black or any 'earthy' colour with the word 'dark' in front of it. I did all this.

It shocked me that somehow, through twists of fate no one would have predicted, the very shy child that I was became a public speaker. Getting up in front of people to talk, initially, terrified me - it still does but I've learned that the terror goes away after I get started. I believe that somewhere along the way in the lecture that what I am saying becomes more important than who is saying it ... so I can disappear in front of a crowd. I can hide, in plain view.

On Pride day, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to go down the street, fully out, completely proud and make my membership in the communities to which I belong absolutely evident. I am fat. I am disabled. I am gay.  I know on previous marches, people saw these things, but this one I didn't want anyone to mistake my message. I see them too. I know who I am.


Visibility is an act of courage. Others have written, better than I have, that for people with disabilities every time we enter the community, we change the community. We add ourselves into the social fabric of humanity. We claim status as neighbours, as fellow citizens, as 'owning' community. We take the word 'diversity' which many have wrapped up tightly - making it mean 'this difference' or 'that difference' - and stretch out to mean 'all difference'.

This was my personal goal.

I took my difference, I took my size, my wheelchair, my sexuality, and put a yellow pillbox hat, with a dainty veil, on it.

We got to the parade gathering spot.

Ruby was practising, or that's what she called shooting water at others in the area, on her Supersoaker. We waited in the shade while the rest of the group gathered. Then.

I put the hat on.

Suddenly people were stopping and commenting on the hat. "It looks good," "I love your hat," was said over and over again. Suddenly I was in conversation with drag queens and with leather dudes.

The parade started.

We went by people screaming and cheering.

I don't know if my yellow shirt and yellow hat was understood by anyone.

I don't know if they understood that I had thrown the closet door wide open.





And for the moment, in front of a milion people, completely, fearless about what those things mean.


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

How much richer we all are when we each can be who we really are without fear of rejection and hatred. I don't get why we take beautiful little kids and teach them to be ashamed of who they are. And then they have to spend the rest of their lives overcoming that shame. Hurrah for your little yellow hat and what it represents!

John R. said...

"Hats off!!" (I had to) you, Joe, and all the people who make this diverse world the wonderful place it can and should be!!!

Visibility is such a big part of the "inclusion" movement. Visibility leads to awareness, awareness leads to thought, thought leads to dialogue....and.... dialogue hopefully leads to understanding, celebration and appreciation of difference and diversity!!

Celine said...

I have been to the Pride parade in Toronto several times and have seen and been part of the diversity there. It's amazing and bright and colourful and unforgettable. Even if I did not know you, I am pretty sure I would have noticed the man in the yellow hat glowing like the sun.

I'm sure plenty of people noticed you and I'm equally sure that your courage to be who you are touched people you don't even know and perhaps gave them the courage they needed to do the same thing in their life.

A toast to the brave souls who are who they are.

Liz Miller said...

I love this post.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on throwing that closet door open.

Would love to see the hat. But when I copy/paste the photo into word and blow it up (and crop it and blow it up again)it turns out that you and Joe and Ruby and the hat are all very blurry, probably because the picture taker was a bit too far and you were all moving. Any chance you could have Joe or someone take a picture of just you with the hat?

For one thing, I don't even know what a "pillbox hat" is so would like to find out :-)

Andrea S.

Anonymous said...


ever since you wrote rhe post about I am or I am not - Does disability exist I was worried. Just a feeling inside of me. I was worried that someone hurt you to the core and made you feel unsure. It felt like you had to justify the way you are...

Maybe it was like this to me, becUse to me it feels like this very often. I was surprised becuase I read that you did not want to live without your disability. I sure as hell want to live without mine; without the pain, the breathing trouble all the scars and the longing to have a family more sleep without nightmares and more stamina...

I guess for me what I consantly learn from your blog and what you wNted to say with this post is; everyone is differenr, unique and allowed to live on this here planet as comfortable and loved as possible. People are no clones. Stop thinking in chest of drawers and start thinking in loving and kind ways about the inidividual person.

Enjoy being with different people. Enjoy!



Princeton Posse said...

Bravo, to all! Love the hat.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your hat

Anonymous said...

You are wonderful, just the way you are.

Thank you for making me smile.

wheeliecrone said...

Well done, Dave.
Great hat.
Sometimes, the most courageous thing a person can do is to simply be who they are.
As I said before, well done, Dave.

Baba Yaga said...

I don't know whether I'd have noticed all three aspects of your outness together, but I'm fairly sure a bright yellow pillbox hat with a veil, and in a Pride parade at that, conveys the general message unmistakeably. Good on you (and good on all the other people in wonderful attire, reminding the world that self can be a right thing to be).

Cynthia F. said...

LOVE THIS! You inspire me, Dave. Maybe next year Joe can get a fetching little number as well?