For Svend Robinson, the Vancouver Pride parade has become a joyful experience.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight before the annual march, the former Burnaby NDP MP spoke about how thrilled he was to see so many young people in attendance.
"It really fills me with hope," he said.
Robinson was the first parliamentarian to declare he was gay. And he paid a price.
"When I came out, my office was destroyed," Robinson told the Straight today. "I don't know if you remember that. It was smashed to bits."
He also remembers marching in one of the earliest Pride parades in the late 1970s or early 1980s. He recalled there were about 200 participants and they walked about two blocks, starting near Stanley Park.
"A lot of the people in that parade were wearing paper bags over their heads to symbolize the fact that they were afraid of losing their jobs or being beaten up," Robinson said. "And today, I look around and it's a different world."
He said it was "an incredible privilege to be open, to be out, to be on the front lines".
"I came out during the epidemic in which I was going to funerals almost every week," Robinson noted. "People were dying of AIDS. So to be part of a liberation movement to make this world a better place was very special."
Robinson had many political achievements, including adding sexual orientation to hate-crime legislation. He was a beloved figure on the left in Canada and a polarizing figure to right wingers.
He served in Parliament from 1979 to 2004 but his career came to an abrupt end when he admitted to stealing a ring. Robinson was later diagnosed as bipolar and he volunteered his time to raise awareness about mental health.
The former MP attempted a political comeback in 2006 but lost in Vancouver Centre to Liberal Hedy Fry.
Robinson now lives in Geneva, Switzerland with his partner Max Riveron and is employed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
"I'm in charge of their political work," he said. "I work with elected representatives around the world to try to promote human rights, support the global fund, and make sure we've got the resources to fight the pandemics. It builds on my experiences as a member of Parliament."