Pride Toronto: The Hard Work Begins Now

Pride is over.  We survived.  Queers Against Israeli Apartheid marched.  PrideToronto got its money from the City of Toronto.  So, everyone is happy?

Not so much.  And it so isn’t over.

First, there is the City motion:

Mammoliti, seconded by Rob Ford, tried to get the City to pull the plug entirely on the funding after the fact.  But, at the last minute, their motion was revised. Here is the text that passed, 36 to 1.

1. City Council direct that funding for Pride Toronto be paid after the parade and be conditional upon Pride Toronto requiring all registered participants to comply with the City of Toronto’s Anti-Discrimination Policy.

2. City Council request the City Manager to advise Pride Toronto on what is required of them to meet the Policy.

3. City Council request the City Manager to advise Pride Toronto whether the participation of QuAIA and the signs or banners they carry contravenes the City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy.

What this means is that next year, the City will withhold the funding until after the Pride Parade, and then decide whether or not the City’s anti discrimination policy was violated.  If the policy was violated, then there will be no money.  It also shifts the onus for determining what does or doesn’t violate the anti-discrimination policy to the City Manager.  (This is no doubt better than having it decided by Mammoliti or Ford, but still a bit on the vague side…)

And does QuAIA violate the City’s anti-discrimination policy?  I doubt it, but I don’t get to decide.  The City does.  And so far, we just don’t know.

Then, there is the Pride Toronto motion.  First, Pride Toronto banned QuAIA from marching.  Then, in the face of mounting opposition, and facilitated by some community leaders, Pride Toronto changed its mind.  It decided to let QuAIA march. It passed two resolutions:

1. Be it resolved that the motion of May 21st regarding language restrictions of groups participating in the 2010 Pride parade be replaced by the requirement that each participating group read and sign and confirm to abide by the City of Toronto’s Declaration of a Non-Discrimination Policy and that all groups that uphold this policy are welcome to participate in the 2010 Pride Parade. Any groups that refuse to sign will not be permitted to participate.

That was the easier one, shifting responsibility back to where it belonged, namely, with the City.  It got us all through the parade.  But, there is the second motion:

2. Be it resolved that Pride Toronto appoint a panel of LGBTTIQQ2SA leaders and friends to recommend a policy to protect and advance the qualities of Pride and ensure it is true to its core values and principles. The mandate of the group would be to consult with the community to develop recommendations to ensure a Pride that values and promotes freedom of speech and individual expression, inclusiveness and respect, pluralism and diversity, equity and fairness, celebration, humour and fun, and to make recommendations regarding Pride Toronto’s ongoing working relationship with the broader LGBTTIQQ2SA communities.

This is the future.  The advisory panel is going to have to address Pride’s midlife crisis.  What is it? What has it become? Where is it going?  Who belongs in the parade, and who doesn’t?

The libertarian streak in me says everyone belongs.  And the free speech civil libertarian came to the defense of QAIA precisely because it was being banned exclusively on the basis of its political messaging.

But, there are some tough choices ahead.  When I say “everyone belongs”, do I really mean it?  Anti-abortion groups?  Abstinence only groups?  The National Rifle Association? (ok, we don’t have one…but we have pro-gun, anti-gun-law groups). Should they be able to march?  I don’t think so. But, why not?

If I am serious about my speech position, I can’t say that they can’t march because of their political message.

Well, I could say, there needs to be an LGBTQ angle, and they don’t have one.  But, all we have to do to destroy that argument is to put “queer” in front of each of the groups.  So, now we have “Queers Against Abortion”, “Queers for Abstinence only Education”, “Queers for more guns”.  Now, there is a queer angle.

Another argument against their marching:  it really doesn’t have anything to do with LGBT issues.  It’s about something else.

But, when is an issue about something else?  Are gay Tamils really marching about something else? Are they “really” marching about the violent oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka? Or are they “really” marching about queer issues?

Surely, we have been around identity politics enough over the last 20 years to know that these two things are absolutely inextricably intertwined.   No one in their right mind (admittedly not everyone involved in this debate) is going to say that gay Tamils can’t march.

But, then, why can’t Queers Against Abortion march?  Would we let Dykes for Choice march? Hard to imagine we wouldn’t.  And they did…they were just called something else in the past: lesbians.

So, here is the problem.  Pride was always political.  It has been an umbrella for LGBT folks with a range of political issues: sex, censorship, family, nudity, abortion, poverty.    But, when LGBT folks were outsiders and outlaws, there was something that united us.  And there was an assumption of a shared political vision.  It probably was no more true at the time (witness all the organizations that spontaneous combusted due to internal strife).  But, there was this assumption of a kind of shared, left of centre, politics.

We aren’t outlaws anymore.  And we don’t share a political vision anymore.  We have LGBT folks across the political spectrum.   We have free market venture capitalists and hard core socialist anti-poverty activists.  We have fetishists and families with 2.4 children and a golden retriever.  And we have folks with very different views on the state of Israel.

I remain inclined to include folks, even those that I don’t agree with.  I am always defending folks that I don’t agree with.  It’s the occupational hazard of a civil libertarian.  I have defended anti-abortion groups.  I have defended right wing lunatics.

But I don’t want them in my parade.  ‘Cause it’s my parade.  Go rain on someone else’s parade.

But I also know that I have not yet come up with a satisfactory answer to myself for excluding them.  I just don’t like them.  They offend me.  And I am the first to say, that is not a good enough reason.

The advisory panel for Pride has its work cut out for it.

I am going to try to help them out.  I don’t know how exactly, but I do know that digging into an either/or position for/against QuAIA is not the way out of Pride’s mid life crisis.  I think we have to do some soul searching.  And some hard thinking.

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