It’s going to be a hot time in the old town this weekend, and we’re not just talking temperature.

The real heat will be generated starting at high noon Sunday, when the 31th annual Pride Parade sashays through the West End from Robson and Thurlow to Sunset Beach.

Last year, more than half a million not-so-innocent bystanders attended, and this year, with nothing but blue skies forecast for the long weekend, I suspect crowd records will rival temperature records.

Now that the Pride parade is so festive, it’s hard to remember pride parades were born in protest — the first ones took place in 1970 to commemorate the riot that followed a police raid on a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Vancouver’s parade was early, loud and proud and has become a vital tourist attraction, as well as a celebration of sexuality, freedom, dignity — and safety.

Wow, 1970. In 1970, I still had hair. Lots of it. Long, beautiful hair … but I digress.

Police raids on gay bars are a thing of the past, but crimes against gay people aren’t, and if you’re a Conservative politician, it’s still risky to support gay activities, as Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy recently found out. Although the Harper government officially denies it, there’s not much doubt a large portion of her funding power was stripped away after she gave $400,000 to Toronto’s Pride Week in June.

She was punished even though the Tories have a number of gay MPs and senators. Harper and his posse of angry, old, straight white guys from the Prairies still don’t get it.

It’s hard to believe that sexual orientation still summons up demons from the depths of fear and intolerance. Some day, (ya think?) we’ll learn the things that make us different are the things that make us human, that we’re all human, and we have to learn to play together on this precious little planet.

Gay and lesbian people, at risk to their safety and sanity, have taught that lesson to the rest of us, partially out of self-interest, but the community has made a real effort to accentuate the positive, and we have a golden opportunity to celebrate that effort together during Pride Week.

But, lest we forget, one of this year’s parade grand marshalls is Cleve Jones, the protegé of San Francisco gay activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 just for being gay.

Party hearty, because the right to do so was earned in blood and tears.

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