Pride Toronto announced its honoured individuals and groups on May 22; those who will lead the Pride Parade, Dyke March and Trans* Pride March this year. The honourees represent a diverse selection of activists and innovators, including some that reflect the queer community’s history.
All three events will take place on Yonge Street this year, reflecting a longstanding demand by Trans* Pride March organizers for equal footing with the other marches. In previous years, trans activists marched down Yonge Street despite not getting official permission from the city.
The Pride parade’s grand marshal will be longtime community activist Reverend Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church. Hawkes, who has advocated for many human rights issues, achieved global prominence in 2001 when he performed the first (retroactively) legal same-sex marriages in the world.
Leading the parade as honoured group will be 2 Spirits Toronto, a non-profit group that provides services to Two Spirit people and has been at the forefront of raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among indigenous Canadians.
This year’s honoured dyke will be Connie Bonnello, a community leader who was responsible for the launch of IBM Canada’s Teaching Respect in Schools program. The program, launched in 2011, teaches kids strategies to combat bullying.
The Dyke March chose as its honoured group a collection of activists, artists and educators they’ve aptly dubbed the Toronto Fierce Femme Organizers. The group comprises Kim Milan (Crosby), Catherine Hernandez, Gein Wong, Chanelle Gallant, Sedina Fiati, Leah Lakshmi, Dainty Smith, Monica Forrester, Belle Jumelles, Anna Camilleri, Alyson Mitchell and Vee Stun.
“I feel really pleasantly surprised and heart-touched to have been noticed at all and to be included in such really great company,” says Smith, a writer, actor, and burlesque performer who identifies as a femme queer person.
“Often you feel like you just fly under the radar. There’s a sense that Toronto isn’t really an arts city,” she says. “I think we can and we do support each other. I think this is another great example of that.”
The Trans* Pride March has chosen two honoured individuals, youth homeless advocate Alex Abramovich, and educator and zine publisher Monica Forrester. The honoured group is Trans Pulse, a community research project investigating the impact of exclusion and discrimination on the health of trans people in Ontario.
Forrester says she’s excited that the Trans* March has been given official sanction to use Yonge Street this year.
“I think it’s important that we bring more visibility to the community within the bigger community Toronto and the world. Thats something over the years that a lot of trans people rallied for,” she says.
With this year’s Pride festivities shaping up to be the biggest yet, the honoured positions at the parade and marches are a great opportunity to recognize the work being done in Toronto to advance queer rights and visibility, says Sean Hillier, Pride Toronto co-chair.
“Pride Toronto is proud to recognize the contributions of these community leaders, who have been building community in this city for decades. The recognition is well-deserved and serves as an inspiration to others,” Hillier says.