Every year a group called TNT Men (Totally Naked Toronto Men) walk in the Toronto Pride Parade wearing nothing but their birthday suits. This is permitted by Toronto Pride, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Police itself.
As you may know, there is a historical context to this public nudity being allowed at the Pride Parade that relates to the 1981 bath house raids. I must admit, however, that my personal knowledge of the facts surrounding the raids do not allow me to write more profoundly on that subject.
In 2014 Toronto was the host city for World Pride, and I jumped at the opportunity to be nude in public by joining TNT Men in the parade. Interestingly this was my first time attending a Pride Parade as I had never even attended one as a spectator, let alone as an actual participant.
First of all, it is important to note that I am not gay. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to support the LGBT community in their fight for equal rights. For Jade Sambrook, Pride is about shunning all forms of intolerance and showcasing diversity. Being naked in public accomplishes both of those endeavours. It is also important to understand that for Jade Sambrook being naked in public is extremely liberating; It’s about freedom; It’s about not conforming to social norms or to the tyranny of clothing that is imposed on us. Finally, it’s about doing away with body shame and being proud of who we are and what we are.
Now of course the big question is how did the day unfold? Our group was scheduled to arrive at the parade marshalling point for 1PM so that we could begin walking the parade route an hour later. I arrived on time and quickly stripped down to my birthday suit. I did however wear a cool pair of black and gold 3 stripe Adidas shoes, a classic black bowtie, sunglasses and a wide brim hat to keep my face shaded from the sun.
Since this was World Pride and there were an estimated 1.2 million people in attendance as well as many more parade floats than in previous years, it actually took an inordinate amount of time before we were able to begin walking the parade route. In the meantime, I was happy to publically soak in the sun while enjoying the warm summer breeze on my naked body.
During this time dozens of people – mostly women – asked if they could have their photo taken with me. I was more than pleased to oblige. As usual when I have been naked in public, I received many positive comments, winks, smiles and thumbs-up.
Finally around 4PM we entered the parade route and slowly made our way in procession to the cheers of the joyful crowds lined along the streets. It took roughly two hours to finish the parade route, and again, during this whole time we were well received, cheered and applauded. There was also the occasional surprise water gun attack from folks in the crowd, and this was both hilarious and refreshing.
Once we finished the parade route, which ran along Yonge Street from Bloor to Dundas Street, we headed over to the post-parade Pride festivities on Church Street, which also ran from Dundas to Bloor Street (the same distance as the parade route).
Once on Church Street I spent some time with the group before folks simply started going their own way. Eventually I was on my own and still only wearing my birthday suit. I stayed naked in public until the festival closed at 2AM. During this time I was asked non-stop – again mostly from women – if they could have their photo taken with me, and again I was happy to oblige.
Most average people such as myself say that we would like to be famous and have people running after us for our autograph, whereas many superstars say the opposite and complain about being harassed for autographs. To put it simply, I now know what it feels like to be a superstar! Although I was happy to oblige on the constant photo requests, at one point I joked that I was going to start charging a fee. And had I actually done so I would have become rich due to the sheer amount of these requests.
In the end I had a great experience and a very enjoyable day. I met many people. I felt totally free and proud to be me. More importantly though, I felt accepted and did not witness any forms of intolerance.
Some people may argue that they do not want to see a naked human body when they are out and about, or that they don’t want to see somebodies ”penis”, ”junk” or ”schlong”. Some may make the ”what about the children” argument while others may argue that nudity has nothing to do with Pride festivities. I understand that there is a wide range of opinions on the issue of public nudity. I am certain however that nobody that day – adult or child – was traumatized or injured by seeing a naked human body. I also know that we see and accept things on a daily basis that are far worse than a simple naked human body. For example, we see and accept environmental pollution, mass social inequality, mass media violence and mass world-wide poverty just to name a few. For Jade Sambrook these are much worse than seeing a harmless penis or harmless nudity. Clearly the manner in which simple nudity is perceived is a learned behaviour that can be changed. Just like the way society taught us to accept certain things, it can equally teach us that a simple naked human body is not something to which we should take offense.
Going forward, I’ll certainly be participating naked in the Toronto Pride Parade every single year until I no longer can. Until then, the only thing I need to worry about is what cool shoes I will choose to wear for the next parade. And of course any suggestions that you may have to help me with that choice would be kindly appreciated.