Toronto to Host Pride House for Pan Am Games
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Toronto to Host Pride House for Pan Am Games

To create a safe space for all athletes and allies, the 519 will become a pride house for the Pan Am Games.

Photo taken by Vik Pahwa, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Photo taken by Vik Pahwa, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Following in the footsteps of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Toronto will host its very own PrideHouse for this summer’s Pan Am Games.

A pride house provides an all-inclusive safe space for athletes, fans, and allies of the LGBTQ community to network and celebrate during the event.

David Morris, co-chair of the site, said he hopes PrideHouse Toronto will make the up-and-coming Pan Am/Parapan Games the most “LGBTQ-inclusive, multi-sport games in Canadian history.”

“The [focus of what we’re doing], the lens, is making everyone feel accepted and included, to be themselves while competing in sport,” he told Torontoist in an interview.

Attempts for a pride house during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were unsuccessful when Judge Svetlana Mordova upheld a ban on the proposed site. She said such a venue would incite “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and state, provoke religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity.”

Morris says that Toronto’s pride house is in part a response to the attitudes of places like Russia.

“After what we saw in Sochi where LGBT people were excluded and not made to be welcome as part of the games, this is about making a statement that there is a place for us, that we should be able to compete and do our best no matter what our gender identity or sexual orientation,” he said.

“This is particularly important for when you’re looking at the Pan American region, where 11 countries have still criminalized LGBTQ activity and in many other countries, they’re still facing major issues surrounding acceptance and equality,” he continued.

Morris, who started out as a volunteer during the Sochi Olympics, was appointed co-chair of the event in December 2014.

“For the City of Toronto, it really reflects our message of diversity and of our city being a welcoming place,” he said.

The Pan Am pride house will be at the 519 in the Church-Wellesley Village, and will feature live music, art installations, a beer garden, and an outdoor viewing area for those wishing to watch the Games live.

It will run from July 8 to July 26.