Photo Credit/ Helen Filatova
For many, Pride has become a festival of drinks, dancing, performances and parades. These ten days at the end of June each year have become a huge party for LGBT people and allies all over Toronto.
We know that Pride is just around the corner by the growing presence of tell-tale rainbow flags and LGBT-supportive advertisements from huge corporations. It’s become a part of our cultural calendar, right alongside summer music festivals and annual parades.
We have progressed in leaps and bounds with regards to the LGBT community, especially here in Canada. However, it is important that we don’t forget the origins of the gay pride parade, the struggles of the community, the history of our LGBT ancestors or the status of LGBT people all around the world that are less fortunate than we are.
Pride is not just a party. LGBT people are not “showing off” or “rubbing their sexualities in people’s faces.” It is a celebration that LGBT people can have during ten days in the end of the summer safely and happily—it is to enjoy what their ancestors were once killed, lynched or arrested for, and what they fought for them to have.
Toronto Pride began in 1981 following Operation Soap, a police raid on gay bathhouses in Toronto that led to the mass arrests of hundreds of men. This was our national version of the Stonewall Riots, which sparked the protests that began Pride as we know it today.
It took 24 years since then for Canada to finally legalize gay marriage.
Our neighbouring country, the United States, legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2004, but up until this week, it was still banned in 13 states.
The idea that a federal law had to be passed for a state to recognize marriage equality already speaks volumes about the true tolerance of the U.S. towards LGBT rights. The ruling was also only 5-4 in favour, which is indicative of the amount of people in the U.S. who believe in LGBT rights as the majority, and that’s certainly not by a lot.
LGBT people can still get arrested or killed for being present in public in places such as Uganda or Russia, which respectively passed the Anti-Homosexulity Act in 2014 and LGBT Propaganda Law in 2013. Although hate crimes against LGBT people in North America are far lower in frequency, in January 2015 alone there were four reported murders of trans women in the U.S.
Even though corporations have since publicly sponsored gay relationships, it is undeniable that the Trans Pride Parade is still rather stigmatized as well. Thus, their political presence in the LGBT community and in Pride Week is still extremely important, and should be honoured.
So while we can have fun and celebrate, it is important to remember the less fun-filled parts of Pride, too. Attending events like theAIDS Candlelight Vigil on Tuesday at Barbara Hall Park to commemorate the thousands of lives lost to the AIDS crisis, or donating to LGBT charities to help people in danger in other countries or homeless LGBT youth, can make a difference in remembering what Pride means to LGBT people and their allies.
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For this Pride, as for every Pride, it is important to keep in mind the thousands of people that have been persecuted to make this possible for the LGBT community today.