Monday, July 5, 2010

30 years of Toronto Pride: Politics or Party?

Celebrating it's 30th anniversary, over a million people in Toronto joined in the country's biggest Pride celebration.

From it's angry beginings to today's celebrations, Pride has offered an occasion for all the queers to get their freak on - in public.

It's a bit ironic that Pride evolved from protesting the policies of the very politicians who now trip over themselves to be seen marching alongside the floats and freaks.

I remember being part of a human chain around the Ontario legislature in 1994 protesting Bob Rae's decision to allow a free vote on Bill 167 recognizing same sex spousal benefits in Ontario. And because Liberal leader Lynn MacLeod flip floped, the bill was defeated. Of course Mike Harris, the Harper Cabinet's Godfather, opposed the bill.

This is the same Bob Rae who is seen deciding on a Drag Queen Name in an interview with Xtra reporter Michael Pihach at the Gay Pride Gala.  In today's Globe and Mail, Greg McArthur writes about this years, political controversy , the prohibiting of QuAIA (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid)'s particdipation in the parade.  This created quite a social media firestorm which ultimately resulted in Pride Toronto's decision to allow the group to march.

Although a part of me was a bit excited to see some controversy arise in what has sometimes become an annual Gay Summer Santa Claus Parade, I struggled with this one.

I believe Pride Toronto was right to deny QuAIA participation. and wrong to reverse that decision.

I think Irael's treatment of Palestinian's and the Gaza in particular is despicable, but what does that have to do with gay pride?  Pride is a celebration of the progress we have made and recognition of the history that has brought us here.

Using Pride as a platform to protest Israel is a bit ironic given that Israel remains the only country in the Middle East that provides legal protection to homosexuals. It also remains the only democratic country in that region. If there are gays and lesbians being oppressed in the Gaza Strip (and I'm sure there are) then their oppressor is not Israel, but their own fundamentalist regime.  Now if there was a group called "Homo's against Hamas" I may have felt differently.

Pride can't avoid politics.  From a small and surprising act of defiance in a tacky mob owned bar in NYC 41 years ago (Stonewall), it has become an annual International event that draws the attention of millions to the GLBT community.

Ultimately, Pride is personal.  I celebrate that, unlike during my own childhood, every little Canadian gay boy and Canadian gay girl can now grow up to be whatever or whomever they want to be - just like everyone else.

2010 Toronto Pride Parade: Michael Pihach reports from the street


  1. Good point which should be insisted upon: Pride should be reserved for LGBT issues, not for LGBT people protesting something that has nothing to do with those issues. Otherwise, where does it end? What next? Queers Against Pesticide Use? The focus of protests in PRide parades should be on how policies affect us. Israel's way of dealing with the Palestinians doesn't affect us as a group. In fact, as you point out, it's the only country in the Middle East that treats us like normal people. Protests should be directed at all the other countries of the Middle East.
    The noisy queers against so-called Israeli apartheid should direct their invectives toward disgusting and oppressive regimes such as those that rule Iran, Saudi Arabia and such. Incidentally, it isn't apartheid, because all citizens of Israel have equal rights; the queers should get a dictionary and learn some history. That said, Israel does have problems that should be addressed.

  2. I also believe Pride TO was right with their initial decision. I'm disappointed they went back on it. Let's hope they come to one mind over the next year so this doesn't happen again.


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