Furries at Toronto Pride: “one of the largest marching groups of the entire parade”

by Arrkay

Welcome to Arrkay, a member of the Toronto furry scene (home of Furnal Equinox), and the bird who creates and produces Culturally F’d, a Youtube show that explores anthropomorphic artwork throughout history, culture and mass media. See Arrkay’s tag for previous stories. He’s sharing his story today by request of Patch who just marched with furries at San Francisco Pride. Here’s Arrkay’s on-the-scene report from Toronto Pride.

It was a terribly populated affair, with covid still ringing in the back of my head. Pride in Toronto was as busy as ever. Me and my partner just walked the street fair once, which was enough to satiate our curiosity and for me to buy some new sunglasses. It’s a strangely foreign feeling seeing this many unmasked people in one place.

Parade morning

My signs were made, and my flag was bundled up into my tricycle with water bottles, lunch, a vape pen of mint flavored cannabis and sunscreen. My outfit was a second-hand hyena agenda tank top, some compression shorts usually worn for fursuiting but with a complimentary jockstrap on top. I zip-tied a flag and protest signs to my trike. “Learn Queer History” and “Teach Queer History” with taglines “Always been here, always will be” and “No More Shit!” (a rallying cry from the 80’s bathhouse riots in Toronto).

Cardboard signs that read "Teach Queer History, always been here, always will be" and "Learn Queer History, No more shit!"

A crowd of furries accumulated near the group check-in site. Unfortunately it was nowhere near where we were supposed to muster. Not that it ultimately mattered, we wouldn’t be marching for a couple more hours. Navigating the dense crowd with a large orange trike was difficult, but everyone was generally polite and made way for our slow moving group of animal headed queers.

One of the groups we shouldered our way past was the New Democratic Party, with leader Jagmeet Singh visible with his pink turban.

When we finally landed at our exact waiting spot, my partner had met up with me. We chatted about Jagmeet being mere meters away, and seemingly inching closer to the furries. My reaction was: “Fuck, of all the times to get a picture with Jagmeet, and I’m wearing this” – gesturing to my rabbit head, rainbow tank top, and jock-strap-over-underwear. “Aw fuck it!” We asked for a picture.

In the middle of Bloor street, there was no cover save for the overcast threatening to rain on us. As always happens on Pride, the forecast called for a 50% chance of rain. We maybe experienced a brief sprinkle. It was humid and a sweltering 30 degrees C. Our organizer Skylier reminded us that our group was the most at risk of heat exhaustion, and to hydrate. There was a reason most marchers were poodling. If it was just a few degrees cooler we might have had more full suits.

We waited forever for the parade to start. The organizers handed out the custom event badges and sponsored Kerfuffle pride flags. Someone barfed, which created a small crater in the overcrowded street (he was fine, just overheated). Then we had probably 2 hours of fake-out starts, with people rushing to put their fursuit heads on only to be disappointingly still in the same place. Slowly but surely the groups in front of us started to filter out into the parade. The clouds parted as we lined up near our newly arrived float: a truck painted in military camo, but decked out in rainbows and a DJ booth. The sun shined for the rest of the parade, and the only rain was the spray of water guns from a thrilled public.

Instagram screencap from the_painted_sky of a rabbit headed man riding an orange trike.

The parade:

My big rig tricycle began its slow crawl alongside marchers into the streets of Toronto. The marchers finally were able to spread out a little and feel the cool breeze between us. I wish I could relay a more detailed account of what happened from here, but my rabbit head has pretty narrow tunnel-vision, so my focus was not bumping into other marchers.

Some things did become apparent to me, even though I was partially blinded.

  1. There were a LOT of furries (200 registered with the event, and many came without registering, so as many as 250+ furries were in our group.)
  2. There were NO barricades to keep parade watchers on the sidewalks like there usually are.

What would usually be a lot of space on a four lane road became a narrow strip, with throngs of onlookers on either side, eagerly holding out their hands for high-paws or pulling fursuiters aside to take selfies. At its best, it was open like there were barricades for 2 lanes of traffic. At its worst, we’re talking about a few feet between either side of the road, practically forcing us to walk single-file. All the better to snap clean pictures of the animal people.

This spread our group out a lot. There were several times when a volunteer would rush past, telling us to slow down to let the float catch up, and when I was far enough away that other noises of the festival drowned out our own DJ booth. It’s normal to stop during the parade to let the back end catch up. It’s not usual that we end up so spread out that we span the entire city block.

This squeezing of the parade route had some unintended effects. Furries were perceived as one of the largest marching groups of the entire parade (WOW). We were also one of the most engaging with the crowd. Someone was riling up groups of people, getting them to howl to become honorary furries. Many furs were stopping for high-paws and selfies. Our float blasted YMCA to the delight of everyone. Toddlers love to point at me when I fursuit in public, and it didn’t seem to matter that I was only wearing the head today. A couple of times I heard shouts about my protest signs, but with my tunnel vision and trike I couldn’t really interact beyond an occasional solidarity fist in the air.

The parade was easy on my trike. I had the luxury to have somewhere to sit and a basket for my belongings. We were also going downhill, so a lot of my march was leisurely letting my trike do the work. I’ve marched in the past so I know how hard it can be on your foot paws.

Red rabbit ears in a sea of people and pride flags

Photo by Ciardha Avali full gallery linked below

Despite the MASSIVE crowd coming down on us, it dawned on me after the parade that we were probably in the safest possible position in the line-up; smack dab between the political party marching groups (hence why Jagmeet was so close by to our waiting area). So security was likely pretty tight around this group of masked queeirdos interrupting the Green Party, the Liberals and the NDP.

Finally at the end, we turned the last corner at Yonge and Dundas Square, where we filtered out back into reality. It was now 5:30, so we were all marching for about 2 hours. I pulled over behind an events bus to de-head, and disassemble my trike. I was sitting there for a while making sure everything was zipped up for the trip home, and furries just kept coming behind us. When we were ready to leave, the float truck was at last crawling its way past the crowd.

After finding a porta-potty for the longest pee ever, I rode home with plenty of energy after an easy parade. No sore feet, but a sore butt. I showed up, I was myself, and I showed hundreds of thousands of people that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to be weird, so just have fun.

Links and videos

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