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diverse crowd marching in a pride parade

Asthma at Pride: Festivals, Outdoor Events... and Belonging

The first weekend in June I went to Pride Winnipeg for the first time, and my first time at a pride festival! It was shaping up to be our hottest weekend of the year so far, and between my asthma and my tachycardia, I do not always do super well in heat... and I am also not a super outdoorsy person! Fortunately, my planning all worked out and I had a really awesome time.

Planning ahead: Festival fun with asthma

In addition to not having been to Pride before, I have not really attended any major outdoor summer festivals, either! The experience was all new to me, and while I spent the week in advance finding all the fun outfits (...well, the rainbow tutu found me!), I spent some time thinking through what I needed to take with me, too.

Knowing I do not do well in the heat and have a tendency to be dehydrated even on a GOOD day (which affects our twitchy asthmatic airways as it does the rest of the body!) I started planning ahead, going so far as to make a packing list!

My inhaler and N95 mask did not make the list because they are just a given when I go out, but the list included:

  • Ice packs
  • Umbrella (for shade, not rain!)
  • Pride bracelets for my friend (...probably not on your packing list!)
  • Battery powered neck fans
  • Hydration packs (in this case, Liquid IV)
  • Small towel (which I never ended up packing)
  • Sunscreen

I used all of these things (well, until 1 of the 2 fans died, I think it powered on in my backpack!) and they were all really good at helping with the heat. The umbrella did get used during the parade for shade, too!

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In terms of hydration, I still failed at that a bit, but it was not for lack of trying! My breathing was pretty good despite the heat, and I think I can, in part, thank at least trying to stay hydrated for that!

Pride was also, fortunately for me, not a festival with a lot of fires burning in a campground, for example, so I think that helped a lot, too!

But there was still smoke!

Not having allergies, the temperature, weather, and air quality are my main outdoor asthma concerns. With forest fires burning across Canada, I had some air quality concerns but they did not turn out to be a problem, fortunately.

As with anywhere, smoking is just a part of outdoor life in the city, but while we encountered a few people smoking, it was not constant. My friend who I went with, who also has asthma, is more sensitive to cigarette smoke than I am, but she did okay once we made it out of the areas where people were smoking.

One challenge I had was navigating booths where smudging was available. I think smudging is a beautiful practice, where sacred plant-medicines used in Indigenous traditional medicine are burned to cleanse the mind and spirit, but to my lungs, unfortunately, smoke is smoke. Smudging was not widespread on the event grounds, so we could avoid the areas once we had discovered them, but having a good quality mask with me simply made that less of a concern to deal with as I just slipped my mask on when approaching.

Different days, different experiences

Saturday's events were much less crowded than Sunday's, so it was really good for both of us being at our first Pride to have gone on the more chill day! Sunday was parade day, so the event space we had enjoyed pretty freely on Saturday was much more crowded after the parade. We were very happy we had gone on Saturday to check everything out, including doing a 2SLGBTQIA+ health survey for which we got $10!

Sunday's event also involved more crowds and more walking (to and from the parade route to the festivities), but given we were walking IN a crowd, it was way less of a potential asthma problem at that pace!

While I sometimes feel like the only person in the world taking precautions, I am also still being very cautious about avoiding COVID (and by default other respiratory viruses!), so on Sunday when things were more crowded and congested, I put my mask back on despite being outdoors--and I was not the only one, which was nice to see!

All in all, my first Pride was a great experience asthma-wise, as well as in its entirety!

Pride... for ALL of me

What I felt most at Pride was simply affirmation. Living with severe asthma, other chronic health issues, multiple disabilities, and ADHD, it is easy to sometimes feel like I do not quite fit in. When I have to do things differently than other people—even just some of the time—and with how I see the world. Being asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum is, again, an experience that makes me different from others--and even from most queer people. It is also not an identity many are familiar with! Around 2013, a friend realized I might be asexual/aromantic and casually dropped the word asexual into a conversation--that they liked the ace flag!--and suddenly my whole world made more sense: I'd had no idea my lack of interest in things... was an actual thing.

Surrounded by people who have shared that experience of having to do the extra work to understand who they are, I felt like I belonged. Not one person asked about my knee brace (...with a rainbow sleeve underneath!), my limp, or what happened to my leg. No one gave me a second glance when I approached a crowd and slipped my mask on. While I will talk about my asthma with anyone, I still practically never use my inhaler in front of people...but had I needed to, this may have been the place!

Pride allowed me to embrace ALL of me, and be who I am, the most fully I can remember.

As a quote a friend shared on Facebook on Pride weekend read:

"Encouraging someone to be entirely themselves is the loudest way to love them."

Kalen Dion

This year's Pride Winnipeg slogan was "You belong here."

And in ALL of me... I felt it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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