TORONTO — Sharon Hampson was surprised to hear that there there was online enthusiasm for her role in Toronto’s Pride Parade Sunday.
“Really?” the beloved children’s entertainer, half of Sharon and Bram, asked HuffPost Canada incredulously. “I should take a look. I’m not so good at that.”
Her presence was definitely noted at Sunday’s parade, where she rode in a rickshaw for the charity Cycling Without Age, along with her daughter Randi. Naturally, they carried a banner sporting lyrics from “Skinnamarink,” a reference to Sharon and Bram’s most famous song.
“People started singing it and they ended up singing it — it was like they passed it along all the way down Yonge Street,” Hampson said. “It was quite thrilling.”
At an event like Pride, “people are so happy, and there’s just a kind of lovely goodwill energy that seems to permeate everywhere. I loved it.”
She’s marched in the Toronto Pride parade before, with bandmate Bram Morrison in 2016. It was only a few weeks after the deadly mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. When one of their fans suggested their brand of joy and levity could be a welcome antidote to the fear and distress many in the LGBTQ community were feeling, the two were happy to step up.
Bram would have been there this year if he could, Hampson said, but he wasn’t feeling well. “When Bram is there people recognize him quite readily,” she says. “It’s probably harder when it’s just me, although I like to think that I look pretty much like I used to.”
What she liked about the parade, she said, is the same thing she likes about the city.
“The parade, and the people who are watching, are Toronto,” she said. “They’re all different kinds of people, different shapes, different sizes, different cultures, different colours. Everything.”
The parade came just days after the release of Sharon and Bram’s new song “Different,” about how valuable it is that everyone has different identities and experiences: “it would be an awful shame if everybody were the same,” it goes.
Sharon and Bram have been children’s musicians since the late 1970s, along with late bandmate Lois Lilienstein, back when they were Sharon, Lois and Bram. (Lilienstein died in 2015 after battling cancer.) The group’s fans range widely in ages, and they frequently meet adults who tell them they loved their music as children — particularly at an event like Pride.
“We hear sometimes from people from who, their childhood was not so good, and they took refuge in the music,” she said. “So maybe us being out there [at Pride], saying ‘we’re with you,’ is significant to them. I hope it is.”
For some public figures, choosing whether or not to attend Pride can be contentious. Ontario’s premier Doug Ford did not attend Sunday’s parade, stating his resistance to the organization’s decision not to allow uniformed police officers to march.
But it wasn’t a difficult decision for Hampson, who says she can’t remember a time she’s encountered fans who felt she or Bram shouldn’t attend an event like Pride.
“I don’t know whether that’s a reflection of our audience, or if people who felt that way wouldn’t say it to us,” she said. “But they probably wouldn’t get a great reception from us, because it’s contrary to what we believe, which is that you have to accept people ‘in their different colours, shapes and sizes, noses, mouth and eyes-es,’ as the song says.”
And she knows she’s constantly learning new ways to be an ally to the LGBTQ population. “I’m learning about language,” she says. “I have a grandson who uses the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘she.’ And that’s a big learning curve for me.
“Things are ever-changing, and I’m trying to change and learn and get there, too.”
She would happily attend Pride again, she said. “I enjoyed it immensely and I was proud to be part of it.”
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