By Sidney Drmay
Pride Toronto 2016 will have Black Lives Matter Toronto marshaling the parade as well as Justin Trudeau’s presence. These are changes that have been met with questions about whether this will affect the party nature of the event.
Pride is a yearly event that, according to the website, is “uniting and empowering people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” At its inception, Pride was a series of protests against the raiding of Toronto gay bathhouses in 1981. Today it can be difficult to find this history amongst the party-goers and Bud Light sponsorship.
“It’s vital to challenge the anti-blackness within Pride and queer spaces while simultaneously celebrating the Black queer and trans folks in our community,” said Pascale Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a fourth-year journalism student.
Pride has often been a difficult space to access for many racialised and marginalized identities. Even within the queer community, there is often discrimination.
“In comparison to entirely non-queer spaces, Pride is safe but there’s always going to be hesitation on my part as a racialised woman when it comes to inhabiting spaces largely comprised of cisgender, white gay men” said Jen Chan, a third-year biomedical engineering student who has been attending Pride for four years.
“Mostly unless I deliberately look for activist-led spaces during Pride, like the ones created by community organizers or students, Pride is largely just one big substance-fueled crowd” Chan said.
First-year criminology student, Bri Harlick, said they have found that Pride spaces were “misgendered a lot, and for being a queer space, that was slightly disheartening and dysphoric.”
Dysphoria occurs when someone experiences anxiety and distress surrounding their assigned sex not matching their gender.
There is hope that Black Lives Matter Toronto will be able to help bring back more radical politics surrounding Pride. Diverlus notes that Black Lives Matter Toronto has been involved with meetings for the events to help reflect the organizations goals to address anti-blackness at Pride.
“I feel like Black Lives Matter Toronto will improve the space because it shows how diverse our community is and brings a very important issue to head which isn’t being talked about nearly enough” Harlick said.
Trudeau has been attending Pride around Canada for years including Edmonton and Vancouver. In 2014 he attended World Pride in Toronto. However there are some questions about his motives.
“It’s on the heels of Trudeau condemning the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement and it goes hand-in-hand with pinkwashing,” Chan said. Pinkwashing is the use of queer activism as a tool of marketing and political strategy in order to appear queer-friendly. “[His attendance] will both improve while simultaneously take away from the space,” Chan said.
Harlick agrees with these suspicions. “If he really cared about queer issues wouldn’t he be taking actual actions on issues in the community such as third gender options on the census and Bill C-279?”
Bill C-279 was supposed to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada before being gutted and turned into a bill surrounding bathroom use and then forgotten.
Pride has come a long way since the days of radical activists standing up to discriminatory police practices; cops even get their own booth during the street fair. Justin Trudeau’s presence might not do much to remind the queer community of it’s roots but Black Lives Matter Toronto exists as an activist group that challenges the discrimination that Pride has perpetuated in the past. With their help there could be effective change in Pride and in the queer community at large.