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Toronto's Got Pride!

Here in Toronto, Pride is not just a parade, or a day, or a festival. It is a month long celebration of Toronto's 2SLGBTQ+ community within the city limits and beyond. For the month of June, there will be events, parades, and programming put on by local organizations and supported by all three levels of government.

2SLGBTQ+ stands for: Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer. “Two-spirit” refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity.

This year's Pride celebration deserves our special attention, as members of the queer community are feeling increasingly unsafe in our city. This past March, Statistics Canada released troubling statistics on the rise of hate crimes across the country. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are up 64%. It's important to note that after decades of fighting for equal rights and the respect of their fellow Canadians, reported hate crimes against the 2SLGBTQ+ community were steadily decreasing until 2019. While statistics only speak to reported incidents, we could hope that this downward trend reflected decreasing bias held against the community. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to completely stamp out homophobia and transphobia in our country.

It's important that we acknowledge the history of queer communities, both across Canada and here in Toronto. It was May 14, 1969 when Canada decriminalized homosexuality with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. It received royal assent on June 27, 1969, one day before the Stonewall riots took place in New York City. Members of the queer community started protesting in the years following decriminalization, because passing a law about acts in the bedroom did not stop unequal treatment in most institutions and workplaces, harassment from the police, or general prejudice in everyday life.

A photo of an early Toronto Pride Parade from the City of Toronto Archives.

By 1973, Pride Marches were popping up in major cities across Canada and the rest of the world, and were often subjected to homophobic mob harassment. In Toronto, there was a slow evolution towards the festival we celebrate today. There was still so much hurt and anger to work through given the decades of discrimination against the queer community.

In 1981, 286 men were arrested in a single night when Toronto Police Services made targeted raids of several bathhouses under the suspicion of sex work. Not a single sex work charge was proven, but mistreatment by the police certainly was. Outcry from the community resulted in media mainstays like news commentator Dick Smyth and the Globe and Mail Editorial Board taking Toronto Police to task for their irrational focus on queer life. To this day, Pride Toronto features a blend of celebration and activism as we remember the history of homophobia and transphobia in our city.

A video explaining the history of the Toronto Bathhouse Raids.

This is the first year that Pride Toronto is back in full swing, post-pandemic. There is no one way to celebrate—it is a city-wide state of mind. This year, we are flying the Progress Flag at every civic centre to honour the full spectrum of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Mel Lastman Square is the closest location to us in Don Valley North, and I encourage you to stop by and see it flying proudly.

There are many other things you can do to celebrate pride and be an active ally to the queer community, including:

I'm always proud to join for the Pride Flag raising at Toronto City Hall.

What the statistics show us is that hate and prejudice creep back in when we let our guard down. Pride will always need to happen, and every one of us has a role to play in it. The more we do to recognize and celebrate Pride, the closer we move towards a city that is a safe and loving place for all.


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