Our mayor has called for Pride to be less political. I am calling for the opposite.
Pride isn’t for people with bodies and wallets like mine.
I say this knowing that I’m not old enough to have screamed “Fuck you, 52” at police after the bathhouse raids. I was just starting high school when the first Trans March pushed through looming metal barricades in 2009, igniting a tradition of grassroots defiance. Somehow though, I feel a profound sense of loss. Something’s been stolen from me before I’ve had it.
Pride Toronto did not need mayor John Tory’s warning to “not be too political.” The annual Sunday parade has done well in its efforts to curb anything too radical from being part of its central message. Now that diversity issues and representation have mainstream appeal, the organization has made a concerted effort to include typically marginalized people. Times have changed. As the organization’s motto this year goes, you can sit with us—so long as you’re cool with sharing the cafeteria bench alongside corporate sponsors and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders.
There are many who agree with Pride’s direction and Tory’s suggestion. To them, any political aspect is a killjoy raining on the parade.
Yes, great progress has been made thanks to increased LGBTQ visibility. But it’s a contradicting stance: why are we discouraging dissidence and rage when that’s all that has kept us alive?
It’s concerning when counter-marches like Night March, Dyke March, and Trans March are more committed to challenging police authority than those that are organized. These marches welcome resistance and reject big business, reminding attendees that action spurred by violence against us is at the forefront of any organizing, any conversation, any chant.
Pride right now is a party, which is enough of a victory for many. Considering the Orlando mass shooting, a party can be a sanctuary. But being completely satisfied with the pinkwashed, police-friendly, Trudeau-endorsed Pride we have now is dangerous. Queer and trans lives do not exist in vacuums.
As an LGBTQ non-profit, Pride can’t curry favour from the police force and count the bathhouse apology as a win for police cooperation, while Black Lives Matter’s Toronto Coalition (BLMTO) leads the Sunday parade. Pride cannot stand in solidarity with Black police brutality victims, while in partnership with law enforcement that continues to perpetuate this violence. Pride cannot stay silent when the latter’s mural is decried by BLMTO.
A Pride sanitized of politics is (pardon the cliché) one that stands for nothing, so it falls for anything. It will fall for any chance to portray the LGBTQ population as respectable and legitimate. It will make us appear as a monolith with a singular perspective. It will take money from corporations that various communities feel endangered or misrepresented by.
Allies cheering from the sidelines see us making no fuss about any of this, so they believe our struggles are over and check off their needed allyship quota for the year.
Where is their solidarity when the party’s over? Any other time of the year, they are obsessed with our genitals, tops, bottoms, and sexual habits (or lack thereof). They scroll past our GoFundMes begging for spare change to fund life-saving surgeries. They ask us to leave their washrooms, but enter their bedrooms to help them pick outfits. They think gender-neutral pronouns are bullshit. If they are trapped in middle-school cruelty, they still call inanimate objects “so gay,” “dykey,” and other creatively hateful words.
When cheering bystanders are only willing to see us when we’re slathered in SPF and glitter, Pride is not doing enough. It’s not doing itself justice if it doesn’t put a spotlight on what’s hurting us when everyone’s watching.
LGBTQ-motivated assault remains the most violent hate crime in Canada. Gaybashing is still real and still happens in Toronto. One man was assaulted just last week, near Bloor and Bathurst streets. His bruised face is far from the first LGBTQ post-assault selfie or rant I’ve seen pop up on my Facebook timeline.
The disproportional rates of violence, discrimination, unemployment, and homelessness affecting trans communities should make Torontonians livid. Deaths and murders of trans people, especially trans women of colour, affect our communities regularly.
There is still a blood ban for men who have sex with men. The guidelines for blood donation have also been accused of being transphobic.
Discussing issues that go beyond those who are part of the LGBT acronym is woefully low. Two-Spirit, asexual, and intersex individuals are not receiving due attention when it comes to gender and sexual diversity.
I’m not calling for a Pride boycott. Many critical of Pride are choosing to march anyway. But it’s important for Pride Toronto, marchers, and allies to not only recognize that acceptance for some means exclusion for others. Pride must actively prioritize the safeties of those most marginalized in LGBTQ communities. And that means taking sides when sitting beside law enforcement and certain sponsors. Not everyone can sit with us.
Politics, in its base form, is a question: who has the power?
Pride, in its base form, should ask in turn: how can we challenge it?