Why do we have Pride?

A friend of mine wrote this piece as a response to the opinion written by RM Vaughan in the Globe and Mail. Now, full disclosure, I dislike both of these opinion pieces. Birnbaum’s exudes ignorance while Vaughan’s alienates our straight allies. Both are unnecessarily divisive.

But I want to talk about David Birnbaum’s piece, because there’s a lot to unpack here.

David is replying to Vaughan’s piece, so I understand why he’s addressing things the way he is; however, he’s conflating his attendance and support for Pride and the parade with the attendance and support of major political leaders and corporations. He suggests that people assume homophobia and bigotry unless they are proven otherwise, citing Doug Ford as an example (a man who has and continues to align himself with homophobic politicians and causes, regardless of his attendance at Pride).

But Doug Ford’s attendance at Pride is different from David’s. Doug Ford has taken over as leader of the Ontario PCs, and is now the Premier of Ontario. Since that time, he has gotten busy repealing the pro-LGBTQ+ sex-ed curriculum and lending his support to candidates like Tanya Granic Allen, a woman known for declaring that same-sex marriage was the “demise of society” (and yet, society survives). Since his predecessor Patrick Brown made a point to attend the Pride Parade and show the Ontario PCs support for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s natural that Ford’s attendance would come into question. Given his recent record, his failure to attend did little to inspire confidence in his support for the LGBTQ+ community, and his support matters. It makes it hard to take him seriously when he says he won’t attend because of all the naked men.

Pride is at its roots a political movement, and one of the most successful ones of our time. Toronto Pride evolved out of mass protests following the 1981 Toronto Bathhouse raids, also known as “Operation Soap”, where more than 300 men were arrested (the largest mass arrest at the time since 1970). In the months and years following Operation Soap, thousands would protest and march as charges were laid and more raids occurred. Since then, Pride has been a vehicle to push for LGBTQ+ rights in Canada, fighting for action on AIDS and same-sex marriage. Still today, the parade is a place for diverse political movements. Between the TD and Manulife Inc. floats decked in rainbows and glitter you can find groups and causes looking for recognition and support.

Even outside of specific political goals, Pride is a channel for queer visibility and acceptance in the broader community. This is why I’m happy to see so many allies at Pride every year. It’s a sign of love and acceptance where there previously was none. As Pride becomes more commercial with corporate sponsorships and penis shaped water bottles, I reflect on how glad I am that sponsoring pride and putting a rainbow in your logo during the month of June is now a key marketing tactic. Showing support for the LGBTQ+ community is a way to improve your business, not hurt it. I don’t assume, as David suggests, that companies who do not do these things are anti-LGBTQ+, but I would notice if Chick-fil-a suddenly adopted a rainbow banner after donating millions to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations. Often, when the community points out someone’s failure to attend or show support for pride, it is because they have aligned themselves with homophobic views and causes before. Their absence in this way is more notable.

In conclusion, I speak to David. I don’t need to you talk about Pride, I don’t need you to go to Pride, all I need is for you to support the LGBTQ+ community, and with this article, you have failed to do that. In taking a reactionary stance to an opinion piece you have ignored the political implications of government support at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ politicians rule the White House. The LGBTQ+ community has fought long and hard for the rights that we have, and if you think these can’t be taken away then you haven’t been paying attention.