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By: Pauline Phoi Thi Ho

Toronto’s annual Pride Parade is one of the largest pride celebrations in the world.  Every June, Pride Toronto brings out the best in the city’s summertime as the festival takes over Toronto, culminating in a weekend of marches, rallies and a very vibrant parade.

Toronto’s first Pride celebration was a gay picnic on the Toronto Islands in 1971.  Like many major North American cities in the 1970s, Toronto had a growing gay culture after Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau decriminalized homosexuality in 1969.  The gathering was very different than the corporately sponsored party that Pride is today. Political at its core, dozens assembled to demonstrate gay solidarity.

It wasn’t until 1981 that Pride became an annual parade, that organized as an impromptu protest against the 1981 bathhouse raids.  ‘Operation Soap’ raided various bathhouses in Toronto’s Gay Village by breaking down doors and rounding up citizens, most of whom were brought into the streets wearing only towels.  With over 300 men arrested, the anger in the queer community resulted in a nation-wide gay rights movement.  The next day, thousands marched through Toronto’s Gay Village in protest of the raid as a human rights violation.

Since then, Pride Toronto has grown to include over 70 affiliated events showcasing music, arts, culture, food, educational and awareness raising events.  Now in its seventh year, affiliate events raise awareness to the wide range of activities within Toronto and the many different ways that everyone can support and celebrate Pride.  Organized by various community organizations and businesses, the program offers a chance to try something new, meet local clubs and groups, and discover new events around the city.

The affiliated events build up to a final weekend starting with a day of “trans” celebration and community building.  Trans is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum, which includes but is not limited to community members who identify as transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, gender-fluid, gender independent, non-binary, third gender, two-spirit, and bi-gender.

The day starts with the ‘+ Trans Pride Community Fair’ in Allan Gardens, supported and run by trans organizations from across the Greater Toronto Area.  It is a safe space for trans community members to find each other during the Pride Toronto festival and access groups, services, and organizations that are specific to trans communities. In the evening, all trans, non-binary people, friends and allies, gather to rally, march and stand in support of trans identities and rights.

Saturday before the Pride Parade in Toronto is time to celebrate the dyke identities and experiences.  The Toronto Dyke March is a political demonstration welcoming all self-identified queer women to create political and visible space. This grassroots event is not a parade. The women and trans people of the LBTQ+ community take over the streets of downtown Toronto to celebrate their diversity, visibility, their experiences, and the strength of dyke women.

The festival weekend’s premier event, the Toronto Pride Parade, on Sunday, is attended by an estimate of 175,000 to 225,000 spectators jamming city sidewalks and rooftops.  With 150+ participating groups marching down 22 city blocks of the downtown core, the event always has unforgettable performances, floats, and marchers, which is why people come from all over the world to celebrate queerness.

As much fun as Pride is year after year, it is a continuation of the fight against violence and discrimination in the community.  After last year’s horrific Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings, the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter stopped the Pride Parade to protest Pride Toronto’s whiteness. With the Turkish police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at a gay parade and ISIS throwing homosexuals off roof tops and stoning them, Pride parades continue to be important and necessary.

Pride remains relevant because as long as marginalization exists and minority communities are struggling, the need will be ongoing. Pride festivities across Canada celebrate LGBTQ+ power, strength, diversity, and passion of queer experiences and identities. They should be safe spaces to reflect on our history, celebrate our achievements, learn from our past, honour where they’ve come from, and lift voices that have been silenced and forgotten.

As people from all over the world descend on Toronto every June to celebrate the freedom we can offer them, we will have people watching and participating, and it will touch and inspire numerous lives.


Pride Vancouver

Pride Vancouver is the largest LGBTQ+ celebration in western Canada.  The Vancouver Pride Society brings together members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-Spirit community, plus their friends, allies and supporters in celebration of the unique spirit and culture of the LGBTQ2+ community with inclusive events such as the Pride Parade and festivals. vancouverpride.ca

Pride Montreal/Fierte Montreal

Montreal’s Gay Pride Parade is a vibrant, bilingual LGBTQ+ tradition going strong since it’s inception in 1979, when a group of 200 people commemorated New York City’s 1969 Stonewall Riots with “Gairilla,” a precursor to Montreal’s gay pride parade celebrations.  A show of the community’s solidarity, strength, and demand for the same respect, dignity and basic rights as those granted to heterosexuals, find out how the parade evolved over the years by consulting fiertemontrealpride.com.

Ottawa Pride/Capital Pride

Ottawa’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities jumped on the pride wagon in 1986. From culture to partying, there’s an event for everyone. To find out about the week long celebration that works towards creating an environment for advocacy, education and celebration go to ottawacapitalpride.ca.

Edmonton Pride

Edmonton hosts a 10-day pride bash unlike any other starting, rather than ending, with their parade and closing with a huge community brunch as its final event.   The celebration began as a protest movement against the police raid of the Pisces spa in 1981, but did not become an annual event until the early 1990s. A highlight is the LBGTQ Historical Bus Tour through gay Edmonton. edmontonpride.ca.

Winnipeg Pride

Started in 1987 with about 250 people, some of whom wore paper bags over their heads to conceal their identities for fear of discrimination and ridicule from friends, family members, and co-workers, Winnipeg Pride has grown to become a 10-day event.


 

Vietnam Pride

Positive growth over the years.

By Chris Tran

The spirit of Viet Pride is when hope is multiplied into power and spread to those in need. Since Pride’s inception in 2012, adopted from world examples by Ms. Nguyen Thanh Tam, meaningful festivities simultaneously take place in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. These have spread across the country and have culminated in positive changes to the LGBTQ community in Vietnam.

Similar to Pride around the globe, Viet Pride calls for worldwide solidarity against discrimination. It calls for an end to shaming and the need to conceal sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I’ve always been proud as a person in the LGBTQ community, simply because I believe we all gifted! We were not born heterosexual, and we might grow up with stigma, but we still manage to stand strong and succeed,” said transgender singer Huong Giang. Having performed in the ASEAN Pride 2015 and she has brought positive changes to the LGBTQ community in Vietnam through her admirable work ethic.

To her, the six-coloured parade is meant to spread positive values and it acts as a powerful example of how strong and united the LGBTQ community has grown over the years.