More to Pride than meets the eye

Supplied by Duncan Rawlinson.

This June marked a special time for self-identified queer Queen's students and alumni, as Toronto hosted World Pride for the first time.

The event aims to raise awareness for LGBTQ issues on a global scale. It’s been hosted in Rome, Jerusalem and London since 2000, before coming to Canada this past June.

Kingston also played host to their own Pride Parade this summer, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the event.

Seeing Toronto and Kingston embrace Pride events is empowering — but one event doesn’t make Canada a perfect oasis for those who are marginalized.

As a queer-identified woman, one can find me every Toronto Pride at Church and Wellesley Streets, prancing around in rainbow-themed outfits and walking with my head held high as I wander the busy streets, holding hands with my girlfriend of three years.

Modern-day Pride is about demonstrating a love for who you are and acceptance and support for all sexual orientations, sexual expressions, gender identities and gender expressions.

Transphobia, though, is still a major problem, as is a general lack of knowledge of LGBTQ issues beyond gay marriage.

This year, I couldn’t help but wonder if Pride really was the perfect short-term haven of love, acceptance and equality that it’s made out to be. My questions were mainly directed towards the massive influx of self-identified “allies” that attend Pride every year.

Don't get me wrong — I love that Pride is inclusive of those who don’t identify under a queer spectrum. It’s extremely important that those who identify as queer have support and that they aren’t isolated from normative society.

Joining forces with non-queer supporters has ultimately provided a great push for queer communities. But are Pride attendees and sponsors authentic allies to queer issues and causes?

My problem with allies at Pride is that they’re often rights activists during Pride Week and other LGBTQ events, but abandon all feelings of responsibility for supporting queer communities once the festivities have concluded.

While I don’t mean to disregard the many amazing, active allies who fight for queer visibility and equality throughout the year, it appears as though most Pride-attending "allies" show up for the party, preach that they love same-sex couples and then go back to their everyday lives.

I've heard friends of mine, who attend Pride with me, continue to express homophobia once they’re away from the Pride atmosphere.

Phrases like "that's so gay", "she looks like a big dyke", and transphobic expressions that I won’t repeat for the sake of protecting people from emotional triggers, are dropped on the daily by these "allies”.

In order to be a true ally, one shouldn’t abandon their queer activism in places where it’s not already laid out on a rainbow-painted platter.

Being an ally means raising awareness about queer issues that are harder to understand, more difficult to swallow and less fun or trendy to engage in.

These include support for trans peoples, who don’t receive the same amount of support as cisgender LGBTQ — individuals whose gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth.

At the last few Toronto Pride Parades, the support for trans people from the city has been nonexistent.

Nicki Ward, organizer of Toronto’s 2013 Trans March, wrote a piece in Vice stating that Pride Toronto Inc. gave no funding to the Trans March that year.

Researcher and activist Alex Abramovich has said the Toronto homeless shelter system remains largely unsafe for those who identify as LGTBQ. Toronto still has a ways to go to improve the lives of trans people, he’s argued.

Twenty-five to 40 per-cent of homeless youth in Toronto are self-identified as LGBTQ. While the city recently voted in favour of looking further into this issue, the problem requires further awareness from the Toronto community.

Being a more active ally involves making the effort to understand and acknowledge the daily struggle of those who remain marginalized, even in Toronto. Consider how many people can’t express their personhood every day and have to explain their gender pronouns and genitalia to strangers.

Many trans people are only free from this during one week of the year, in a condensed area.

Another way to be an active ally is to recognize that queerness comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and forms, and these are all legitimate. Listen actively to people's experiences; let them shape their identities without assumptions and expectations from outsiders.

We must recognize that Pride doesn’t revolve around cisgender queer couples deserving the same legal rights as straight couples. Oppression, such as misogyny, racism, transphobia and biphobia is rampant even within the Pride setting, which is supposed to be the biggest protective haven for queer folk.

There’s much more to Pride that needs to be recognized by the public. Being "proud"isn't enough.

Jessica Weiss Sinclair is a graduate of the Gender Studies program.


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