Glamorous glamour, glitzy drag queens and float after spectacular float – it was all there, and more, as thousands of rainbow-clad spectators gleefully flocked to the streets of downtown Toronto to show their pride in the scorching heat on Sunday.
Canada’s largest Pride parade, and one of the largest in North America, was the main event of the month-long Toronto celebration and became a huge street party.
More than 260 groups marched down Yonge Street in a five-hour-long procession that drew thousands of spectators, participants and marchers – including mayoral candidates in Monday’s election, as well as federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and the federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was also involved.
For many, this year was especially important to attend and celebrate.
“The way society is changing, the way the climate is changing – these things are more important than ever,” said Lisa Delcolle, as she waited to march with the Toronto Pflag at a stage area on Bloor Street. and holding a sign that read: “I love my ENBY (non-binary) baby.”
This year’s Pride celebration took place globally and closer to home, against a backdrop of homophobic and transphobic incidents and hateful rhetoric. Efforts to include LGBTQ at the local level included a crowd of far-right protesters gathering outside a Toronto Public Library branch in April to stop a Drag Story Time event, and in June, the York Catholic District School Board Voted against hoisting the pride flag. its head office because it was not in line with “(their) Catholic values.”
Days later, during walkouts protesting the board’s decision, LGBTQ students and allies faced harassment, hate speech, and violence at some schools.
Pride Toronto said it increased security measures for this year’s parade due to growing concerns about hate: policing costs more than doubled from last year and insurance costs increased from $67,000 to $300,000 in 2022 .
For Delcol, whose child came out as non-binary in 2015 when Delcol “knew nothing about what it meant to be non-binary,” Showing up at Pride is as much about visibility for the kids as it is for the parents. With PFlag, Delcol aims to support parents so they can support their children — something that has become even more challenging with increasing misinformation and disinformation, said Delcol, who gives education workshops. .
Delcole stresses that, while parents — or anyone — may not fully understand what it means when a child comes out as non-binary, “you have to respect that.” No need to understand.”
Hearty cheers broke out as parade participants saw Toronto Pflag signs, including: “The labels are for canned soup,” and “I love my gay baby!” Pflag York Area President Tristan Coolman unfurled a placard that read: “O York Catholics… prepare for the Second Coming!”
At the corner of Carlton and Yonge Streets, homophobic sentiments boomed from a religious speaker’s mic, struggling to be heard over the thump of passing floats.
Realizing the irony, two shirtless men wearing booty shorts stopped to kiss right in front of the man’s station. Jayla B., a high school student who declined to give her full last name, confronts the preacher, questioning what is considered “sin” after all. His friends followed him shouting words of encouragement.
“Why are you here, out of place, doing this?” He said. “Look how many of us are here.”
Though she was disappointed to hear such rhetoric, Jayla said it could not spoil the excitement of her first pride parade. “Seeing that so many people come here because we support each other, it warms my soul.”
For Alota Drama, a drag queen with bright lavender hair marching in the parade with parents of children, recent anti-LGBTQ hate has strengthened the resolve to celebrate at Pride. As a teacher at a GTA school — which boasts a rainbow club and held an assembly to raise the pride flag this year — it’s clear that the recent hate disenfranchises children.
Drama said, “If you will, Roll Back is about making decisions for the kids when they are ready to make their own decisions.”
Ellie, 12, wanted to be part of a “really beautiful celebration” and was marching as part of a young activist group with the Toronto-based Nonsensical Society for Kids. Kelsey White, one of the founders, said the group consists of kids who are quirky or want to be the best possible ally.
“We really want an open space for the kids. I don’t think people understand that kids can be weird,” White said, adding that it was important to show up at Pride this year in light of recent events.
Visibility, a key factor in Pride, could be seen in the bright pink shirts of the nearly 300 volunteers who worked the parade’s route, which began at Bloor and Streets and ended at Dundas Street West, just north of Nathan Phillips Square. where the festivities continued. Evening with Music and Beer Garden.
Pride Toronto volunteer manager Freya Selander said it was encouraging to see the volunteer contingent in their bright tops against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
“There are literally hundreds of people who are giving their time, their energy, their hours of sleep… to make sure that this happens,” Selander said. “I find it really promising. I find it really inspiring.”
Visibility on the small screen was also represented in the parade: Markham-born actress Amrit Kaur, who stars in the HBO show “The Sex Lives of College Girls”, was also in attendance. The show has been widely praised for its positive LGBTQ representation.
Kaur, who is part of the LGBTQ community, was accompanied to the parade by her high school drama teacher-turned-publicist, whom she said was a “positive queer icon” in her life.
“I didn’t hang out as a high school kid,” she said. “I went to Burr Oak Secondary School, which was very conservative at the time.” Kaur said she is happy for the students today who have the support to come out and talk about their sexuality.
Some felt this year’s pride parade was just as important as any other year, it’s just that “this year we’re hearing more noise,” said Jamia Zuberi, vice-principal of Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School, which Leading a packed Toronto district. School Board Float.
For Zuberi, “a proud, different, queer person,” the barriers faced by the LGBTQ community have always been there. So, like every year, Zuberi and his colleagues “put their bodies on the line” to break down those barriers.
Zuberi said, “We are here because this is a place of healing, a place of joy.”
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