With the month of June wrapping up, so do Toronto’s annual PRIDE festivities. For many in the LGBTQ2S+ community, PRIDE going virtual for the second year in a row was difficult to come to terms with. However, many groups rose to the occasion and continued to host fantastic online events!
But something still felt different about PRIDE this year. I think it had to do with the types of conversations that were being held throughout the various panel discussions and online platforms. Last week, I had the opportunity to tune in to a panel discussion hosted by CBC Toronto discussing what’s changed in the LGBTQ2S+ community, what’s gotten better, and what needs more work. Here are some of the conversations and stories shared by LGBTQ2S+ members.
Pride Is So Much More Than Just The Month Of June
Yes, June represents PRIDE Month all around the world, but it shouldn’t just be restricted to one month in the year. Throughout June there are various ads on TV, billboards, radio, as well as brand partnerships and a plethora of PRIDE swag. But once July hits, the branding celebrations for PRIDE end, and we don’t hear much of it for another year.
“Its so important to see it all year round and not just for that one month. I remember last November I saw a Pampers commercial with two moms and I paused the PVR to show my partner. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a queer couple so just casually put into a major brand outside of the month of June,” Chris Glover, Reporter & Anchor At CBC Toronto said.
Ally-Action & Doing Things All Year Round
Panellist Kiley May, a two-spirit, transgender woman highlighted the important topic of ally-action and how to support LGBTQ2S+ communities all year round. To Kiley, words don’t mean much without action, and that action doesn’t have to be constantly broadcasted on social media, it can be done privately and quietly.
“Ally-ship is so much more than saying I’m an ally or I support the community. What are you doing? I believe in ally-action and actually doing things year round. That truly shows how much you support our community by doing it not for the glory, not so you look good, but just doing it,” Kiley May said.
Corporate Signage During Pride
There was a conversation about the capitalist nature surrounding pride and how much of a positive, but also negative effect corporates have on PRIDE. When corporate sponsors come into the LGBTQ2S+ community, it can really change the nature of things, like how Chris Glover said, “they’re not walking the talk.” It’s important that these corporations take action ALL YEAR and care about the imprint they’re making with their corporate signages.
“Corporate money allows for certain things to be possible, but I think corporate signage should be invisible,” Michael Erickson, LGBTQ2S+ member, activist, high-school teacher and co-owner of the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in the world, Glad Day Bookshop, said.
“It’s good to have that support, but we need it year round, not only when its profitable and convenient,” Kiely May said.
Virtual PRIDE Has Become Much More Accessible
Over the years, Toronto PRIDE celebrations haven’t been much of an accessible event for LGBTQ2S+ members who have disabilities that prevent them from attending in-person gatherings. PRIDE moving online means that these members can redefine what this time means to them, and finally feel a part of the community. For Dany Ko, PRIDE 2021 was one of the most accessible. As a disabled person, he didn’t have to worry about the stresses of not being able to participate because of chronic pain or mobility issues.
“This really made me change my perspective on PRIDE, how I’ve celebrated it and how I hope to keep celebrating it. It’s a drastic change from stumbling upon things while at PRIDE to now being an active part of it,” Dany Ko, youth program coordinator at Asian Community AIDS Services.
More Inclusion of Two-Spirit
For Kiley May, it represents an intersectional identity of Indigi-Queer and Indigenous. There is a long history between PRIDE and two-spirit Indigenous members; Kiley wants to see more spaces for members of her community and more consideration for their needs.
“As an Indigenous person, an Indigi-Queer, two-spirit Queer Trans person, I have not seen the same amount or same kinds of spaces for our identities and our communities as I have for the other identities in the LGBTQ2S+ community. I find it ironic as Indigenous peoples we were the first people on this land and one would think we would have a space to be centred and prioritized, but that’s not the case,” Kiley May said.
Watch the full CBC Toronto panel discussion here.
We’re Still Not Where We’re Suppose To Be…
Jad Jaber’s Story
I came across an Instagram story by Jad Jaber a few weeks ago, where he tells his story of being assaulted in the village by a homeless man. I was crushed to see things like this still happening, but sad to say, I wasn’t surprised. Assaults like this are still happening in the city, especially for those in the LGBTQ2S+ community, and it’s even more likely if you’re a visible minority.
Jaber moved to Toronto in 2018, after leaving Beirut because it was no longer safe for him as an openly homosexual man. Jaber came to Toronto for a fresh start, a place where he could feel safe and welcomed as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Over the past 3 years, he’s dealt with 4 different incidents of harassment in the village, something he’d never experienced back home in Lebanon. Jaber is the founder of The Marginalized Majority, a non-profit organization in Toronto focused on the emotional and social health of marginalized LGBTQ2S+ folks and highlighting the cultural experiences of Queer immigrants and POC’s.
His most recent incident involved a homeless man following him home in the village and attacking him to the ground as he carried his groceries home with a friend. The man shouted at him with radicalized and homosexual terms and Jaber feared for his safety.
He contacted Toronto Police immediately and it took them 4 hours to show up. During that time, the man stood outside Jaber’s apartment continuing to terrorize him while another man joined in shouting additional racial slurs.
“How dare you place so many Rainbows around the city and not even try to protect me and my community. How dare you Toronto”, said Jaber.
Jaber was traumatized. He says hate crimes like this are becoming more and more common along Church St. and it’s no longer a place where LGBTQ2S+ can feel safe and at home.
All in all, as Pride month comes to a close, it’s important for us to build on the growth and continue the conversations beyond the month of June. For members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, Pride isn’t just one month out of the year. It’s year-round for life. While we’ve come so far in society regarding representation and inclusivity, as with most things, there is also much more we can collectively do.
If you are looking for crisis, drop-in, and peer supports, The 519 has a comprehensive list of organizations you can contact.