Proud, come rain or come shine

Every year Pride has its share of problems and critics. This year there was the city workers’ strike, complaints over the increasing corporate presence and controversy regarding the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

To top it all off Mother Nature gave us massive amounts of rainfall on Sunday morning.

Yes, the tourists were annoyed by the giant piles of garbage everywhere. Hundreds were disappointed when the Beach Ball party was cancelled at Hanlan’s Point as a result of the city strike. And many wondered what exactly Stride Gum had to do with Toronto’s queer community that warranted it a huge float in the parade.

Still, it’s important to note how some things haven’t changed 40 years after the day of the Stonewall riots in New York. Homophobia is still isolating queers at their jobs, causing astonishing rates of suicide and depression among youth and led to a police raid on a gay bar in Texas this past weekend that led to seven arrests and put one patron in intensive care.

In Toronto many of us are fortunate enough to feel like we live in a city that (pretty much) accepts us with little or no questions asked. And in 2009 we’ve come a long way from feeling like the queer community is isolated on a small stretch on Church St.

And while Church St is still the centre of queerdom in the city — as evidenced by the thousands of gay and straight people who flooded the tiny strip minutes after the parade — it’s interesting to watch how the queer scene has spread.

There are now queer businesses and communities spread across the city. This year, trans folk and trans-allies had their own official march. Even the Gehry-redesigned AGO hosted its first Pride event, the 2009 edition of the annual Artwherk event for queer youth.

But I think the biggest sign of progress is hearing how many of my gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans friends decided they would rather stay home. For many of these people it wasn’t because they didn’t care or aren’t proud of being queer. For them, being part of the parade isn’t necessary because the theme of Pride is present in their lives all year long. Whether they are queer parents, genderqueer or simply challenging people’s heteronormative expectations, these people are everyday activists.

No one is denying Pride is a great thing. It’s an amazing event that helps reunites friends, brings money to the city through tourism and showcases the diversity of queer culture.

But we can focus too much on the summer festival, the parade and all the parties and there’s something to be said about being queer and proud all year long. And that’s what we can’t stop, won’t stop doing.

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