Even in Canada! Did Toronto F*ck Up Gay Pride?

TORONTO:

I think we can agree that by all accounts and according to all major news sources, Toronto is pretty much the least pleasant place to be in North America right now. If you weren’t already one of the 9,000 people arrested for having, like, an especially heavy purse within a twenty-mile radius of the G20 conference, then you’re pissed about the way Toronto Pride is going down. And you thought being Canadian was all hockey and beavertails, huh? (@montrealgazette)

A quick recap: the original point of controversy was that Toronto Pride was banning the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and in fact banning all use of the term “Israeli apartheid,” apparently in an effort to pretend the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just isn’t even a thing. In an act of protest, several past honorees of Toronto Pride pointedly returned their awards, because really, if you’re uncomfortable with heated political disagreement, then taking to the streets to make your queer community known probably isn’t for you. The Pride planners then rescinded the policy, so really everything’s fine now, right? (@xtra)

Well, if you’re not trans, female, young, or of color, then maybe it is, I dunno. But This Magazine has an excellent rundown on the more insidious ways that Toronto Pride is making itself an unwelcoming space for marginalized queer communities. For instance, it appears that while they were busy making sure no one talked about apartheid, Toronto Pride planners were also planning the Trans March without any input from trans people, booking events relating to women’s and youth issues way the hell away from where the rest of Pride was happening, and oh, also f*cking over black queers. Did we mention that? (@thismagazine)

Blackness Yes! is a community-based organization that’s been putting together Blockorama, a Pride party for black queers, trans people and their allies, for the past twelve years. For the past three, it’s been forced to move to smaller and smaller venues when the spaces it was originally slated for were reassigned to Toronto Pride’s corporate sponsors – two years ago, the space was so inappropriate that when paramedics had to be called for an attendee who needed emergency care, they couldn’t reach her because of the density of the crowd. And what about this year? Yes, you guessed it – Blockorama has been moved to an even smaller and less safe space than before, the Alexander Street parkette. A parkette. That’s not even a park.

Thea Lim of Racialicious has also covered this story in terms of what it means for Toronto’s relationship with its black queer community. She mentions that Rinaldo Walcott, a University of Toronto professor, wrote a letter expressing his frustration with the treatment Blackness Yes! was receiving, excerpted here:

“…at the same time that Pride Toronto has moved Blocko three times, Pride Toronto has also taken on the mantle of global human rights as its signature issue.

It is in fact the discrepancy between Pride Toronto’s treatment of local black communities participation in pride events and its attempt to position itself as a global player in the LGBTQ global rights movement that I find particularly offensive, disrespectful and unmindful of the very communities residing here that Pride Toronto would seek to champion overseas.

How can this be? How could it be that Pride Toronto did not see this ethical dilemma before it? Is it because Blocko is the last non-commercial space at pride? Is it because like much else in this country Pride Toronto too believes that black people as a constituency can be ignored? These are genuine questions, not accusations.

…We will not as black people here and globally stand to be exploited by white folks who now want it to appear that all is well at home, but not elsewhere.”

(@racialicious)

After calling a town hall meeting and a meeting with the Executive Director of Pride Toronto (who wasn’t able to make time to see them for, oh, five months), Blackness Yes! has finally been granted… their original space back. Committee member Syrus Marcus Ware says that he’s still “not one hundred percent convinced he has our best interests at heart,” and really who can blame him?

The theme for Blockorama this year was based on James Baldwin’s essay The Fire Next Time which, if you haven’t read it, I mean honestly, why not? What is wrong with you? Baldwin talks about our human accountability to each other, and the dire things that lie in our future if we don’t start taking care of each other the way we’re supposed to. Blackness Yes! had their party yesterday, Sunday July 4th, and we hope that Fire This Time succeeded in such a way that would make Baldwin proud.  (Get it? Proud??)

Early reports indicate that despite all these issues, Toronto Pride seems to have gone relatively better than expected – what have you heard?  Were you there?  Tell us about it!

JUDITH EFFING BUTLER:

Meanwhile in Germany, prominent queer theorist Judith Butler was presented with the Prize for Civic Courage at Berlin Pride and refused it, saying that it should go instead to local feminist and queer organizations that promote anti-racism: “Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them,” Butler stated in her not-acceptance speech. “The host organizations refuse to understand antiracist politics as an essential part of their work. Having said this, I must distance myself from this complicity with racism, including anti-Muslim racism.” Oh and she said all this in German because Judith Butler is basically like the MacGuyver of queer theory only instead of exploding helicopters full of bad guys she explodes people’s brains. You can watch the video and read the full text of her speech here. (@postpomonuyorican)

BISEXUALITY:

One of the largest-scale surveys on bisexuality in the the workplace is now underway. The study will take place mainly in the US and UK, and comes out of increasing awareness that bisexual employees often feel isolated from both their straight and gay coworkers. This is important news, because as any bisexual person can tell you, there is frustratingly little data about anything to do with bisexuality. (@pinknews)

MARRIAGE:

Hey remember when it looked like maybe there would be gay marriage in New York but then there wasn’t and we all almost threw ourselves off the GW bridge? Yeah well thankfully Cuomo says that gay marriage will be “a priority” in 2011. Thanks bro! (@wsj)

Oh, and that’s not all! In the UK, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone says that it’s possible that gay couples may soon be able to incorporate religious elements into their civil union ceremonies; this is a big deal, as the current Civil Partnerships Act prohibits the use of religious services during registrations. (@telegraph)

GAY YOUTH:

What are you doing right now? Did you read the NSFW Sunday yet? If you answered no, then read that. If you answered yes, then you might as well check out part three of the New York Times’ series on gay youth, yeah? (@nytimes)

GAY ADOPTION:

Remember when a study said that gay people make great parents and everyone got their panties all in a twist about it? Well suck it, bitches, because Scotland is issuing a call for MORE gay parents in light of their ongoing adoption crisis. “Margaret Moyes, chief executive of the Scottish Adoption Association, said: “There is a growing awareness that same sex couples do make good adoptive parents and children can benefit from it. “But I’d really like to see more gay couples applying because of the number of kids in Scotland that are not being placed for adoption.” (@dailyexpress)

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 737 articles for us.

32 Comments

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    It was my first Pride Parade in Toronto this year. The only controversy I was aware of involved Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. I wasn’t aware of other ones like Blockorama.
    Anyway, the parade was so cool! I can’t wait to go again next year! The majority of people seemed to enjoy it.

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      yes. Where do u live? obvs it would be different for different areas.

      I found pride still fun.
      They were in a position to ban it because i think the government werent going to give them any money so they got forced into a situation where they felt they needed to ban it for those reasons.

      After all the protesting they put it back and just didnt get any money.

      A few of my friends said that they didnt like that the apartheid became such a big deal in the parade tho and the dyke march and that it felt like it took over the parade and that the parade shouldnt be so political.

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        i’m from Washington DC, actually. but obvs canada has black people, some of my family members visited there once and well, there’s Drake, right?

        but in all seriousness, i’m always skeptical of the journey towards these sort of “post-racial” environments b/c they allow people to fall back into the sort of insidious, institutionalized racism found in this Blockorama debacle.

        i actually have a lot to say about this but i just started a new character on fallout 3 soooooo…i’ll leave the rest to the imagination. but canada still seems like a cool place!

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          “well, there’s Drake, right?”

          this made me do a spit-take for real. also i wish you had shared your feelings instead of playing fallout 3. just saying.

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          Canada *near the toronto area* (the GTA)(theres also areas that are more white than others, but whatevs) is very multi cultural, in my highschool we had like 4 white ppl in my class sometimes. The schools in my area were evenly distributed in the race. So i am sorry but this is frustrating for you to assume its all white people when a couple of times when I was in school I could be the only white person in my class.

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          oh man, well i guess i have to discuss my feelings anyway. i understand why its frustrating for me to assume that canada’s all white (even in jest). i come from a educational background that has a similar element of assumed whiteness that has led to a lot of surprised looks when i come in for job interviews. so i understand why that is problematic and also why what i’m about to say is also problematic, but reflects the institutionalized problem of racism in North American culture…so, with that preface, ahem: i’m no expert on canadian culture but if i were to base my knowledge of the ethnic composition of canada solely on the cultural exports of canada, i would pretty much assume that everyone there is white. the same could be said about the majority of american cultural exports.

          HOWEVER i don’t base my judgments of a country’s racial makeup on it’s culture because, well, that’s just dumb. but i think the (non)existence of cultural and ethnic minorities in a country’s cultural exports says a lot about how said country interacts with the issue of race.

          Bringing the Blockorama issue back into the picture, I view the way that Blackness Yes! is so easily brushed aside each year combined with the underpublicized nature of this issue, (esp. in contrast with the israeli apartheid protest) is a reflection of the way Toronto Pride deals/avoids dealing with race.

          Phew! okay, it’s 11:00 pm and like 90 degrees right now and i quit proofreading in third grade soooo this may just be a babbling incoherent mess. it’s also full of sweeping generalizations so not to tokenize you or anything (jk, you speak for all of canada now) but if you find anything problematic or just super effing wrong in this heatstroke manifesto, call me out on it.

          and for the record, playing unarmed in fallout 3 is not NEARLY as fun or useful as it is in the elder scrolls series >:(

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    Toronto Pride was so controversial from the get go, I was surprised that it managed to succeed at all.

    They lost their federal funding before the whole Israeli Apartheid thing as far as I remember, which resulted in the Conservative government being accused of homophobia. The Israeli Apartheid thing became completely ridiculous, and made the Pride committee look far too concerned with its own interests.

    I agree with the people who argued against the ban of that term, Toronto Pride can’t just pretend that all is lovely and Pride is just about having a big party. I hadn’t heard about the Blackness Yes! group debacle, but that’s equally disappointing.

    Yes Pride is about having fun and partying with other queer people, but surely that doesn’t have to include a complete disregard for political and social issues that face LGBT people around the world (and within Toronto/Canada obvs.)

    Though maybe I’d see it differently if I actually went to Toronto Pride instead of just reading about the issues.

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    Deviant Productions, an alternative youth media collective has been covering all of the town hall meetings, press conferences and action plan meetings held by Blockorama, Pride Toronto itself, and the Pride Coalition for Free Speech that was founded after the censorship.

    Check out the video report on Blockorama here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8wXYAWu-ho

    Check out the video report on the official statement by Pride Toronto and the community’s reaction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV1G8Db34S4&feature=related

    Check out the video report on the 22 Award recipients that returned their awards in protest:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIDeTsMZFYg&feature=related

    And finally, a video report on the Toronto’s queer and trans mobilization and the Pride Coalition for Free Speech:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al3-kTXFeJ0

    I hope these videos help shed more light on the issues. Feel free to use them in your articles.

    Best,
    Lali Mohamed

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    Most Canadians have actually known for years that Toronto is one of the least pleasant places to be in North America.
    -
    Judith Butler fucking rules. And after reading this post I didn’t know what to do with my very strong feelings about Judith Butler ruling so I made a tumblr.

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    I’m from Toronto, this may make my response biased but really? Pride was amazing. It always is. Toronto has the third largest parade in the world. There are always going to be issues. I hardly doubt you can tell me one time, anywhere where, where there wasn’t the slightest amount of controversy. All of prides funding was cut, and it still was a success. I dislike how negative article was. A big thank you to all the volunteers and people who made Toronto Pride Happen!

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      I don’t think the article’s hating on Toronto Pride itself, just examining the fact that beneath the warm fuzzy idea of “community” that Pride sort of promotes (and does, in my opinion, often succeed in achieving, for some, at least to an extent) there are also still a lot of people who are marginalized within the queer “community.” I think it’s a really important thing to be aware of, in the midst of the fun party times. Because not everybody feels like they get to party as hardy, you know? Hearty? Anyway. We’re the only ones who are ever gonna care enough to change the problems in our own communities so why not talk about them.

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      I completely agree, I feel a bit defensive reading this because i just feel like Pride was amazing. Its still huge, and world pride is going to be there in 2014 i believe? I cant remember.

      Either way it didn’t fuck up, it was still great.

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    “Judith Butler is basically like the MacGuyver of queer theory only instead of exploding helicopters full of bad guys she explodes people’s brains.”

    This may be the greatest discription ever of my beloved Judith Butler. I’m pretty sure I’m going to say it to the first-year gender studies students I’m tutoring, and they will all look extremely confused and think I’m crazy and I will be entertained. So thankyou, Rachel, in anticipation.

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    That adoption article really made me want to run out and adopt a kid that needs a family and then raise them to be a total effing superstar, just to prove i can. then i remembered i barely have enough money to feed myself, so its probs not a good idea just now.

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    Toronto Pride was a celebration of diversity and tolerance. There was a large showing for Queers Against the Israeli Apartheid and much support from the parade watchers. It certainly started out controversial, but ended in a positive way. I think its so unfortunate for a person who was likely not involved in the parade to attack Toronto Pride for one issue. Pride was amazing and there were many more positive things to come out of it than negatives, if any! There is a reason Toronto Pride is the biggest in North America…

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    Toronto Pride is usually a mess which is why I tend to avoid it. I went for one hour to see MEN play – that’s it. I volunteer for a human rights organization called Egale and they refused to take part in the parade this year because of the (initial) exclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. I had no idea about about the Blackorama party – shit, I’ve never even heard of it and I live here. Nor did I know that no involvement or input was taken from the Trans community for the trans march. I mean, the Trans march was a new thing – I don’t think they’ve done it in the years before – so maybe they’ll still looking for the right volunteers, etc. That being said, it was the shortest of the three parades and only ran down Church St. Did anyone catch it? How did it go?

    QuAIA did attend Pride in the end and got lots of support, apparently the biggest Palestinian contingent in the parade’s history . I think what went wrong with that particular issue is that Pride didn’t want to get “political” (yeah, I know…) but then realized that there decision to exclude a group was, without a doubt, a political decision.

    BUT Toronto is incredible and I would rather live in this North American city (and get married if I want) then live in almost half of the states in the USA. Toronto Pride had it’s problems, but in the end, I think everyone had a good time. I certainly hope that they expand and improve on the Trans March and provide Blackness Yes! with an appropriate space in the future.

    And yes, Toronto is a MAJOR METROPOLIS with plenty of black people. One is sitting next to me now. Say hi to the people, Roland.

    hi

  10. Pingback: Toronto City Councillor: Pride Parade funding should be stripped – National Post | news plus

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    Pride was great! I was in the parade and I felt like everyone was having a great time even in the intense heat.

    Just like everything that ever happens, anywhere, there are problems. But I feel like this years Pride was just as great as any in the past.

    The Trans March was VERY short and I was surprised when it ended. More info probably needs to be out there for people to come out and watch/join.

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    Ouch! I have to say that this article about Toronto struck a nerve! I’m from Toronto, born and raise…I have to say that I absolutely love, love, LOVE my city and Pride is always amazing regardless of what you might think! :)

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