Stonewall TO Takes Pride Back To Its Grassroots
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Stonewall TO Takes Pride Back To Its Grassroots

Stonewall TO marchers entering the Church-Wellesley Village Sunday afternoon.

“An army of lovers will never be defeated!” Stonewall TO march, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots that occurred after a police raid on a gay bar in New York City. An estimated 1,200 participants gathered at Queen’s Park and started walking east along Wellesley, making their way to the Church-Wellesley Village, and ending outside the 519 Church Street Community Centre. After stopping traffic along Church Street for about half an hour, many of the Stonewall TO participants moved to Cawthra Square Park behind the 519 for a relaxed gathering with music and food.

Stonewall TO’s Sasha Van Bon Bon danced while stopping car traffic.

The march had a playful spirit: participants covered one another in silver and red glitter, artists had created placards bearing illustrations of prominent local queer activists like Will Munro and Sky Gilbert, a gentleman rode a bike decorated with flowers surrounding a portrait of filmmaker John Waters. It was, unsurprisingly given many recent events, also somewhat politically charged, with signs supporting students in the Catholic school system attempting to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs); demands to stop Mayor Rob Ford’s proposed funding cuts to queer-related services; and criticism’s of Pride Toronto’s dependence on corporate sponsorship.
The latter is one of the reasons Stonewall TO was started, and the inverse relationship between external funding and community ownership was on the mind of march co-organizer Sasha Van Bon Bon when we spoke with her in anticipation of Sunday’s event. “When you come to rely on funding from unreliable sources that don’t necessarily have the best interest of our very diverse community at stake,” she had said, “then we come to rely on funding that we have no control over in the end.” In contrast to Pride, the grassroots Stonewall TO was volunteer-based, and recouped costs by selling buttons and T-shirts.
The success of this year’s Stonewall TO will undoubtedly mean another edition; however, there may be a scheduling overlap as Pride Toronto is expected to return the Pride Parade to the end of June in 2012. (Traditionally, Pride celebrations around the world are held during the last weekend of June to mark the timing of the Stonewall riots.) There’s still a year to sort out what will happen, but for now, Toronto’s queer community can look to the glittery silver lining, showing that Toronto has a new way of demonstrating its pride.
Photos by Jaime Woo/Torontoist.