About this time last year I got into a heated debate with my good friend and fellow blogger, Catherine. Catherine and I don’t typically engage in deep political or social debates so the fact that we were not only delving deeply into the socio-political, but also that it got so involved made the topic worth remembering. I had suggested that the LGBT community wasn’t making good use of their annual time in the media spotlight; that the community as a whole was allowing itself to be defined by videos of half-naked people shooting each other with water guns rather than by a conversation about something important…like the ongoing struggle of gays, lesbians, et al for equality in this country and around the world. I kept coming back to the idea that when all the world is watching and you have something important to say, why the fuck would you waste your time putting on a big clown show?
And hey, I’m not so hip, but I’m hip enough to get that Pride is about getting together and yelling at the top of your lungs “HEY WORLD, HERE I AM AND HOW THE FUCK DO YOU LIKE THAT? ‘CAUSE I THINK IT’S AMAZING TO BE ME!!” And back in the not so distant past when just being gay in public was a dangerous, it made sense for the parade to be about a concept as simple as being out and not being afraid. But it doesn’t seem like we’re there anymore and I can’t believe the community is getting as much mileage out of scaring the squares. That’s not to say there isn’t still plenty of hate and ignorance, but it do homosexuals still need the big FU?
I don’t think I’m the only on who’s confused; as evidenced by the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) debate.
Pride Toronto was absolutely right to ban the words Israeli Apartheid from the parade. Not because they’re inflammatory or even because they’re harshly bigoted. They don’t belong in the Pride Parade because they don’t belong in the Pride Parade. What benefit do LGBT people get by having the parade hijacked by the purveyors of rhetoric? Could the plight of the Palestinians, however important, be any further from the prevailing message of pride? But maybe I don’t understand Pride. To be certain, I’m an outsider.
So here’s my question: Why Pride? Am I completely missing the point when I suggest that you can’t mix a message about gay rights with naked men shooting each other with super soakers and reasonably expect the message to get through? Sure, the people at the parade can pick through the noise. But that doesn’t count. The people at the parade are your choir and you don’t get special points for preaching to them. There’s a message to be sure, but I argue that it’s going unheard.
Maybe I’ve got it wrong and Pride is just a party. If so, fine…but why then would there be any flack concerning QuAIA. No need for those bummers at a party, right? If, on the other hand it’s about something deeper than just a party, what’s the message?
It’s not surprising that the LGBT community in Toronto seems to be in transition. Several of the big battles have been won in Ontario and once the big battles are won, it’s hard to keep the troops from going home. And if you can keep the troops mustered, it’s hard to keep them from getting distracted by things like Israel. Until every single homosexual or transgendered person on Earth can wave his or her or his/her ass as freely as you do every year then you ought not to allow your focus to be so easily shifted. Shit, you don’t even have to look very far to see that what you have in Ontario is special, unique and rare. Just on the other side of Lake Ontario are a bunch of LGBT folks who’d love to have what you have. And what do you do to help them? Wiggle your balls around? Doesn’t seem like you’re really making an effort, does it? Rather, it seems like you’re forfeiting an opportunity in a time when even in Canada, where things are good, dark forces are gathering against the LGBT community. Led by Stephen Harper, they’re coming to legitimize your event and ultimately your way of life. But hey…the super soakers and Israeli Apartheid need their time in the sun, right?
Listen, this isn’t just the usual pot stirring about Pride. The health and well-being of the LGBT community is vital to the health of the City of Toronto and the cause of equality is central to the vision of Canada. It’s important that we not let that ideal get misplaced or stolen.
In 1994, a dear friend of my family, a man I called Uncle Larry came to Toronto to visit some friends and get away from what I imagine was a very difficult life for a closeted gay man in a small Ontario town. He did this occasionally and was openly welcomed by the community, something for which I am grateful. On that last trip to Toronto he met the wrong person, was drugged, kidnapped, murdered and left in the Rosedale ravine. It barely made news in my small hometown; no one cared about some fag getting killed. That was 16 years ago, but anytime I go down to Church and Wellesley I’m reminded that it must have been heaven for him to come to such a fun, open and safe place. Yeah, I say safe. Although he died in Toronto, it wasn’t the city or the community that killed him. Rather, I believe it was the community that allowed him to live, if only in short spurts.
To the LGBTTIQQ2SA community at of Toronto; you’ve built something truly wonderful. Mightn’t it be time to pass it on? Isn’t it time to take a little responsibility for this grand thing you’ve created and put some more focus on the broader and even-continuing struggle of LGBT people everywhere? You get the world’s attention once a year without fail and yes, the reason you have that attention now is because you shook your ass and had a great time. But the world’s listening now, however briefly. Don’t waste a golden opportunity to say the real things you’ve always wanted to say. You have the world’s ear; don’t shoot it with a super soaker.