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Rob Ford Should Participate in Pride. Period.

The mayor's persistent refusal to make Pride an essential part of his calendar is indefensible.

Rob Ford, once again, will not be attending the Pride parade. Once again, Toronto is plunged into a fierce debate about what this means and how much it matters.

It matters, tremendously, and it cannot be condoned.

It matters because Rob Ford didn’t attend Pride at all last year—not the parade, not ceremonies held at City Hall, not any other official Pride event—and so now we have not just an isolated incident but a pattern of avoiding Pride celebrations as a whole.

It matters because Ford’s claim that it can’t be helped, that the parade conflicts with a long-standing date to spend Canada Day weekend with his family—a claim we have no reason to doubt—rings hollow when unaccompanied by concerted efforts to make up for this by including some of those other Pride events in his calendar.

It matters because people openly wonder if our mayor is homophobic, and he is giving them more cause to wonder.

It matters because Ford, who champions “the little guy” at every turn, who makes hay of travelling across the city to tend to unfilled potholes and unfixed water mains, is snubbing an entire community with a long history of disenfranchisement.

It matters because Ford was elected mayor—mayor of all of us—and part of his job is to foster inclusion, to build a city in which all of us are welcome.

Pride is officially opened each year with a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall. Last year Rob Ford missed it, he said, due to a scheduled private meeting with Brian Burke—as if Brian Burke wouldn’t have gladly held that meeting with Ford right there on the City Hall rooftop, right next to the flag. Today, Ford told reporters he would have to see about attending Pride events other than the parade this year, depending on his schedule.

It cannot depend on his schedule. His schedule must depend on it.

Every political leader has can’t-miss events, occasions whose significance are such that they simply must show up. Sometimes, they do it reluctantly. Sometimes, they do it out of obligation. Perhaps some politicians who go to Pride do so only because they feel they must. Perhaps some of them are homophobic and hate every minute.

They should—and yes, this is a controversial position to stake out—show up anyway, and be supportive when they do.

The only way we make progress, collectively, is by normalizing certain attitudes and holding others unacceptable.

It is unacceptable for Toronto to have a mayor who either is or acts—and these are not the same thing—homophobic. But we have to start with the visible signs of action. We do not know what is in Rob Ford’s heart. His feelings about the queer communities in Toronto may be simple or complex, fully known to him or largely subconscious. (“I think the mayor is shy. I think the mayor is insecure,” councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told NOW today, and it’s certainly a plausible theory.) We are not the thought police and we cannot, nor do we want to, monitor his mind. But we cannot tolerate this kind of action.

And it is an action. Ford isn’t skipping the parade this year, he didn’t skip all of Pride last year, out of forgetfulness or busyness or getting the dates wrong in his calendar. Large numbers of people, including many of his council colleagues, invited him to attend. Columnists asked him to attend. No doubt many of his advisers pointed out the political backlash he would risk by staying home. This did not just slip his mind. It was a decision, and it was indefensible.

Nobody would likely give Ford much grief if he kept that long-standing date with his family at the cottage: if, that is, he made it clear that he regretted not being able to attend, if he attended other Pride events, if he found other means to show his support. He has failed to do so. And in that, he is failing us all.

It is fairly absurd to be writing this—that we have to write this. “Rob Ford Should Participate in Pride.” It shouldn’t be a question. We would prefer that Toronto hadn’t elected a mayor about whom such questions arise. But we did, and it is incumbent upon Ford to put them to rest, immediately.


  • NC

    He should be there … no doubt in my mind.

  • Joseph Gleasure

    “the only way to make progress is to normalize certain attitudes and make others unacceptable”

    that doesn’t stop a problem that just covers it up if someone really hates gays they’ll still hate gays no matter how politically incorrect it is hey maybe they won’t be as vocal but it will still be there and if anything their inability to vent in a open setting might lead to further resentment

    it isn’t social progress and anyone who thinks we’re a better society because we can hide out dirty laundry better is a fool

    • Geoff Mosher

      I think the argument is clear here that it is not about covering up or policing certain attitudes but publicly acknowledging what citizens expect of our society and what is unacceptable discrimination. You provide no alternative either, so it seems your argument is that because homophobia exists we must accept it and allow the representatives of our system to publicly express that discrimination with no repercussions or criticism.

      • Joseph Gleasure

        >implying that rob ford is a homophobe

        • Paul Kishimoto

          >implying Geoff was implying anything

          Besides, this isn’t /b/.

          The parade and the flag-raising are open settings; the family cottage is not. If Ford shows up at the former, no one can prohibit him from venting or resenting; but more likely he will have to confront the falsity of his perception of gays, which takes him a step towards overcoming it.

        • Geoff Mosher

          i never implied anything about my Ford. I was responding directly to the statements you madem

  • observerator

    What’s unsettling is how many bigots come out of the woodwork when this debate pops up, commending Ford for his “commitment to family” and taking the opportunity to criticize the Pride parade as a shameful event. It’s really depressing, actually.

  • Anonymous

    “I think the mayor is shy.” Seriously?

    He’s made his message perfectly clear. Can we please stop fighting for his chance to pinkwash his bullshit please?

  • Anonymous


  • Jordyn Marcellus

    I have to take umbrage, like Joseph, at this: “the only way to make progress is to normalize certain attitudes and make others unacceptable.” It feeds the right-wing meme of progressives wanting to implement a brainwashing thought police agenda.

    Progress happens through empathy and mutual respect. Because when we have that, it makes it much harder to slag

    We need to show the queer community (as well as other disenfranchised minorities) are made up of complex, living human beings who deserve the same kind of respect any other person does. That media myths and misconceptions are just that — myths and misconceptions.

    Progressives should want to build the bonds of empathy. In this case, Pride shows that the queer community comes in many different sizes, shapes and voices. There’s a place in our pluralistic country to discuss the struggles of gay Muslims, transgendered Christians and queer Jews — just as there’s a place for the struggles Sikhs, Hindus, and even privileged white dudes!

    For instance, if Ford cared to pay attention, I’m sure he’d find a lot of inspiration with the queer community’s emphasis on celebrating who you are. That’s what Pride is, fundamentally — people celebrating being proud of who they are, instead of hiding it deep inside themselves. Ford talks a lot about believing in yourself re: football. Well Pride celebrates just that — believing in yourself and being proud as hell about who you are.

    Heck, I’m a straight white dude and I find a lot of inspiration in that!

    • Anonymous

      I truly wish that had worked or we had any reason to think it might. But Ford is hardly lacking for proximate examples of members of the queer community who have patiently invited him to any number of events (as part of Pride and throughout the year), and tried to discuss many issues over the years. He’s been shown all the things you describe, and he’s ignoring it. He *doesn’t* care to pay attention, and all the empathetic outreach in the world isn’t making him.

      • Jordyn Marcellus

        I totally agree with you Hamutal. Sadly, he’s not going to go. Full stop. Period. -30- We all know this.

        And that’s the essential problem in this Sisyphean task: we know he won’t go, but we must invite him to these events so he can see

        The next three years will feature a lot of spilled ink over his inartful slithering out of his commitments re: Pride. That’s who Ford has shown himself to be. We can yell “shame!” at him and call him a homophobe all he wants — all that does is stiffen and his base’s spine.

        To me, his inability to go to Pride is deeply emblematic of Ford’s character. It reveals a man deeply un-self-aware and uninterested in this city, a man who would rather meet an American reality TV star/two-bit real estate mogul rather than celebrate the diversity in his own city here.

        I’m trying to be tactical here — if we respectfully, frankly, and honestly discuss why he needs to go (as we’re doing now!), we will further our cause. We need to explain how the Pride Parade and Pride Week should be no different than a food court/ugly-ass luxury hotel opening. If the mayor can attend those events, he should be there.

        He won’t go to the Pride Week flag-raising. He won’t go the the Parade, or any of the innumerable events. He won’t go a gay flag football league event.

        He will look like a fool in public because of it. But only if we stay respectful and kind — as opposed to martyring him with nasty insults and accusations of homophobia (no matter how true they may be).

        The only way to get Ford to come is kindness, and even then, it won’t happen. Not for wont of trying, but because the man is who he is. And that’s sad. But hopefully we can unify Toronto in our mutual, respectful, disappointment.

  • Anonymous

    How about we start with calling Ford’s actions, policy decisions HOMOPHOBIC (but god forbid we call him a Homophobe because we don’t know what he’s thinking!).

  • Joshua Reddy

    You’re being hypocritical, it is his choice to attend the parade or not. I don’t get upset when homosexuals don’t accept my invite to a straight bar. You’re lucky that he is even letting them have a parade. Maybe he is a homophobe, but he is polite and professional enough to make an excuse to why he can’t go.

    • M. Arthur Douglas Daley

      so remember that all you queers and whining pinko lefties, it’s thanks to hizzoner’s good graces that you even get to have this disgusting party of yours…

    • Anonymous

      Out of interest, haow many homosexuals have you invited to a straight bar?

      • M. Arthur Douglas Daley

        got something in your closet josh?

    • Anonymous

      Have your friends been elected to represent a complex group that includes straight bar-goers? If not, your example falls flat.

      Rob Ford chose to run for mayor of Toronto and was elected to serve all of Toronto. Pride is an important part of Toronto culture and important internationally. Rob Ford isn’t your gay friend not wanting to go to a bar, he’s the mayor of Toronto saying, “I care so little about gay people that I can’t even RSVP.”

    • Tabby

      No, it’s your choice whether or not to attend the parade. He’s a public figure; the mayor of Toronto. He doesn’t get a choice – it’s his JOB to attend ceremonial functions such as this.

  • Anonymous

    Can I call a Pink General Strike?

    All the gays and their friends just stop working for a day and hang out at city hall?

    Instead of a parade, we bring Toronto to a stand still so the mayor can see just how visible we are. He understands money. Let’s stop the gravy train.

  • PDG

    People “think” he’s homophobic? I know he is.

  • ♔ Joshua R. ☣

    You’re being hypocritical, it is his choice to attend the parade or not. I don’t get upset when homosexuals don’t accept my invite to a straight bar. You’re lucky that he is even letting them have a parade. Maybe he is a homophobe, but he is polite and professional enough to make an excuse to why he can’t go.

    • Gnarlk

      this is just too funny. can you even get into bars?

    • Kevin

      The difference between you and him is that he was elected to represent a city of 3.5M people and that comes with certain responsibilities. What if we had a PM who was against wars refused to go to Sunnybrook Hospital because there is a veterans ward there, and then they became “lucky” because “he is even letting them have” a ward for themselves?

      What a simple argument, and it seems obvious that you know little about being elected as a politician in a democratic nation – you sign up to serve your people and you’re expected to serve them once you’re in office. It may wreck one(!) weekend up north with your family, but it’s the price you must pay for the job you willingly took on.

  • Anonymous

    “[Politicians] should—and yes, this is a controversial position to stake out—show up anyway, and be supportive when they do.”

    That doesn’t sound controversial at all.

    • Anonymous

      We’ve had a fair number of commenters on previous posts on this issue say things like “if that’s his attitude I don’t want him there.”

      • Anonymous

        Doesn’t “be supportive” cancel out whatever attitude he holds privately?

        • Anonymous

          Sorry – I meant publicly.

          There are commenters who say that the politicians who show up do it because they want to be seen as supporting Pride, even if they don’t care or don’t like it, and that they’d rather such politicians stay home. My point is that visible shows of support, even if they conflict with one’s private opinion, help shape the climate of the city and to that extent should be made anyway. The more public shows of support there are, the more we create an environment in which being queer is an accepted part of life in our city, and the more we do that, the more we create the conditions for further and deeper acceptance.

          • Anonymous

            I see what you mean and I agree with you, but I still don’t think it’s controversial to expect elected officials to put aside their own (ignorant) opinions and do their jobs.

            To those commenters I say, if it weren’t important to anyone that politicians show up and “be seen”, they wouldn’t be invited in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Great editorial.

    Are we really surprised that this poor excuse for a leader won’t commit to showing up for any Pride related events? He can’t even stay in council chambers during meetings he has a stake in! I bet he even drops in and out on his family during this oh-so-sacred Canada Day holiday!

  • Anonymous

    Ford decision is probably political. He has little to gain in the way of votes by attending pride events. He can however lose core supporters by attending. A percentage of voters, especially conservative ones, have difficultly accepting homosexuality. I have many second and third generation ESL relatives and neighbours that are closet homophobic. They’re uncomfortable when the conversation turns to topics of sexuality and they say the nastiest things when they see a pride parade clip on the evening news. When your sweet, 70 year old aunt says the most vile things about your daughter’s gay best friend, in a language neither understands, you know it’s not an uncommon attitude among a certain segment of the population. Ford know this, or at least his handlers do.

  • A Patriot

    Breaking assumption…There is only one reason that he will not attend Pride events this year – Rob must be gay and is scared of simply facing his hidden truth. He knows that attending the flag ceremony will result into his spontaneous chorus of YMCA whilst stripping down to rainbow colored briefs! He truly is deserving of our gratitude to prevent this catastrphe from coming to pass. THANK YOU ROB! Please don’t give in – keep Toronto safe from your undies.

  • Bo Ngan

    He runs for the job to represent the residents of this city. tax payer gives him a salary and expect an more than adequate performance. So be there. otherwise someone else should be the mayor …hard working people who deserves public trust work themselves above the call of duty. this mayor lowers his performance to the marginal category.

  • Stephanie Woodside

    I saw Rob Ford march in the Good Friday Parade along College this year. This is the parade where Jesus gets flagellated (several Jesuses, I might add). I guess that’s more his speed……truly weird….

  • Ken McCartney

    If I were mayor, I don’t know If I would attend the parade either, to be honest. Now, before you start calling me a homophobe, I know a lot of queer folk that hate the parade, as it’s now just an excuse to publicly debauch yourself. I don’t want to be a party to that, straight or gay or otherwise.

    The ceremony at city hall, however, is another matter. To not participate at all does not make homosexuality disappear somehow. Admit that it’s become a part of our culture and civic identity, grin and bear it. Even if you believe that all gays are going to burn in hell for deviant sex acts, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them with respect, perceived foibles and all.

    Mayor Ford dignifying the ceremonies even though he’s homophobic might convince someone out there to forgive some of his shortcomings. Not showing up at all is a bad move.

    • Lauren

      if he has a reasonable response to not going, we’d be all ears. it’s a legitimate stance to say that while you’re happy to be invited, you feel that certain elements do a disservice to the lgbt community and you’d rather participate in celebrations that are more representative of the community as a whole. then you attend the not-raunchy flag event, pick up a couple of 24′s and head to the cottage.

  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    “It is unacceptable for Toronto to have a mayor who either is or acts—and these are not the same thing—homophobic.”

    Does it make a difference if someone is bigoted or just acts bigoted? Unless they’re under duress, you can usually infer things about a person’s thoughts and beliefs by how they act. And no one is forcing the Mayor not to go to Pride.

    • Perfecto

      Usually? Maybe, but there is no thought police.

      Behind the store counter inside the clerk’s head, the clerk could be laughing at your ridiculous complaint/question/request — it only makes a difference if the clerk acts on the thought and show you bad customer service.

      This is just a professional example, there are other examples for between husband and wife, child and parent, and between other relationships.

  • Anonymous

    Soon it will be be that if you refuse to watch gay porn you will be labelled a homophobe. You have the freedom not to take part in pride and you should not be labelled anything for it especially if you are not into observing some of the acts that occur there that would not be allowed anywhere else.

    • Anonymous

      Utter nonsense.

    • Kevin

      The average citizen (you and me) are not the same as a politician. Politicians willingly and knowingly (maybe not Ford) take on public office put their lives in the spot light. They get elected to represent people and thus the job becomes a 24/7 job that should show support for all sections of society.

      Unfortunately people don’t understand the difference between public office and a ‘normal’ job as a civil servant (politicians aren’t civil servants because they don’t swear to be impartial) or public sector employee.

    • Bear

      Yes. Me and some other ‘mos are going to come to your house and stand over you to make sure you’re watching the gay porn you pretend not to own. Beware.

  • metalmike72

    Good for you Mayor Ford….All you idiots want him to go so you can make fun of him even more…So why should he go…He doesn’t get the support from this demographic anyway…So he has nothing to lose…Since Councilor Wong-Tam is a Lesbian and on City Council she should be the representative for the City…No one should be forced to attend events if they don’t want to or if they have other commitments.

    • Anonymous

      Grown ups sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do because it’s part of their job. Ford doesn’t have to attend the parade if he doesn’t want to but he damn well better acknowledge this major event in some official way.

    • Gnarlk

      awww, who’s the sensitive little fat boy protecting his blubberey brethren? do you and the mayor have multiple chin stroking parties? gooey tub of shit.

    • Agnieszka Jeglinska

      “So why should he go”

      Why? Because he is a MAYOR. That is why. Not good enough reason for you?
      If you take upon a political role, you don’t get to pick what you like or not like. You have to learn to deal with responsibilities and manage them well, as any responsible adult would.

      His way of dealing with anything that stresses him out is just beyond disgraceful.
      Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit if he has personality issues, or is shy, or whatever-other reason you can come up with. If you go into politics, you got to be fully aware that you will have to deal with society. If you are scared of people then why even try to go for Mayor in first place??

      If he doesn’t want to go, then he should stop avoiding the responsibility of replying to the invitation (for months) and for once act like a real leader; and be classy about turning the invitation down. But instead, he acts like a 5-year old child and hides under the table till everyone pressures him and things blowup out of proportions.

  • Anonymous

    Bravo, Hamutal. Both you and KWT are showing your class by cutting the mayor some slack on this — arguably more than he deserves.

    I just don’t get the thinking behind this. It’s such a no-brainer.

    • Anonymous

      I have to say, I was so angry with the way the media in general has handled this, at first I was a little pissed Torontoist brought it to the table in the same manner.

      But you’re right. Keep cutting this turd some slack. Be above it (which I truly believe *most* people are).

      Getting angry about it will be entirely counterproductive to the message.

      Great article Hamutal. Even better comments.

  • Kaitlyn

    So let me get this straight: Rob Ford doesn’t lead in the council meetings, where he’s abdicated his role to various fluid and tumultuous power alliances, which has created a pretty serious air of unstable leadership.

    He also doesn’t lead in Toronto communities, which include queers and cyclists and working moms and right-wingers and all the jumbled personality traits that make this place their home.

    So…what exactly does he do? Take vacations and fill potholes? Maybe he needs to take his inevitable place on a city work crew and let actual leaders do the heavy political and leadership lifting.

    • Agnieszka Jeglinska

      “So…what exactly does he do?”

      He is yapping away in his own Radio show.

  • mike

    yeah he should be there, it’s a given. However, who really wants this heart attack waiting to happen there really? Beyond the whole principle of thing, do we seriously want him there? He’s not so bright and frankly getting to be a bit of a bore…

  • Anonymous

    Is there not some sort of Log Cabin Republican type group holding an event that week that could at least let Ford feel a bit more comfortable attending? Sure, all he would do is show up and say “Subways Subways Subways” but at least he’d be among friends and supporters.

    Everything he does already is partisan so why stop now?

  • Anonymous

    Let me first say that he absolutely should be there.

    However. A certain percent of my gay friends also refuse to go to pride for a number of reasons. Is the same criticism applied? Just curious.

  • yyzmel


    Ford is reflecting the MAINSTREAM opinion amongst traditional families of all ethnic backgrounds in the suburbs, including Chinese, Indian, Africans and Caucasians. We are the ORDINARY car-driving, Tim Hortons drinking hard-working Canadians that represent the MORAL MAJORITY.

    The only ones complaining are the LATTE DRINKING ELITISTS on the left in downtown Toronto who use the CBC and Toronto Star, the most LEFT WING major “news” outlets in North America, as their news source. They don’t represent Mainstream Canadian traditional families, only their bicycle riding pals.

    It’s stances like this which will cause suburbanites in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough to always vote for ROB FORD NATION despite any operational problems that have occurred during his mayoralty. In terms of visions, values, and MORALS, Rob Ford represents the MAINSTREAM suburban opinion.

    • Kaitlyn

      Yup, and those Chinese, Indian, Africans and Caucasians from the suburbs and beyond are sometimes gay, and they sometimes go to Pride. And even if they don’t, Rob Ford represents them just as much.

    • Anonymous

      You missed the point of the complaint from the left. Inclusion, respect, acknowledgment. But it seems you’ve already broken off and created a great nation in your head.

    • Anonymous

      Here’s the answer to all the people who can’t figure out what Ford is thinking. This yyzmel idiot is right too, Ford will get the support of the people who claim their morality justifies prejudice.

    • Anonymous

      Does your morality include public drunkenness, spousal assault, and dui?

    • Gnarlk

      read yyzmel’s tweets to see what a moral, upstanding, caring and intelligent citizen he is.

    • Anonymous

      Sue Ann? Shouldn’t you be making up shit about Regent Park or something?

    • Neville Ross

      Thanks for speaking up, you’ve been given a great honor.

  • Jess Bennett

    Amen. Well said.

  • Peter Kucirek

    An excellent editorial. Piece like this – intelligent, respectful, but with a firm opinion – is why I keep coming back to this site.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Anonymous

    Cannot name another mayor in North America who avoids pride events in their city. Well, ok, one – the ultra-right wing mayor of Oklahoma City. Not exactly a model for Toronto. Even the Republican mayors of Phoenix, Indianapolis and Miami go to their events.

    It’s not about choice, it’s not about bullying the mayor – it’s his freaking job to go!

  • Laika Milou

    what’s odd is that his brother and the rest of his coterie are all saying that pride is a good thing and should be supported. what does he think he has to lose?

  • mark_3_1_6

    I disagree… if he doesn’t feel comfortable there, then he shouldn’t be there. It is not an essential political event, it is a celebration of sexual pride.
    People are entitled to their opinions on both sides of the spectrum. He is not publicaly opposing the event, he just doesn’t want to go.

  • Heather Chaytor Emme

    I made a video inviting him personally:
    I talked about how important pride is to young kids just coming out.
    I even pulled out my diary from my first Pride and showed him what a change it was for me to feel supported and to be a part of something.
    I sent it to him.
    He sent me a form letter.

  • TML

    I’m not meaning to be rude, but just because Ford does not wish to attend a parade, that suddenly makes him homophobic?