From senators to supermodels, ministers to students, a delightfully mixed crowd of people gathered at the swanky Boulevard Club Sept 17 to celebrate Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo’s work. The sampling of supporters revealed just how broad a coalition of allies DiNovo has managed to amass.
DiNovo, who first won her seat in a 2006 by-election, most recently sponsored a bill nicknamed Toby’s Law. On its fourth attempt, Toby’s Law successfully added gender identity and gender expression to the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Riding high off that victory, DiNovo and her staff decided to host the fundraiser to celebrate her 41-year history of activism, beginning when she signed the seminal Canadian gay rights document, the 1971 We Demand manifesto.
Between these milestones, DiNovo performed the first legalized same-sex marriage in North America, won a Lambda award for her book Queering Evangelism and collaborated with high school activists to get Bill 13 passed in support of gay-straight alliances. In July, she was Toronto Pride’s grand marshal.
Naturally, DiNovo has had a wide circle of friends and collaborators throughout her career. Indeed, as she told the crowd during her brief remarks, “Nobody does anything alone in this field.”
Thus, her colleagues from Parliament and the United Church of Canada, of which she is an ordained minister, celebrated alongside teachers, councillors, students and others. But possibly the most notable presence in the room was a large group of trans activists and community members, many of whom worked with DiNovo on Toby’s Law.
“Bringing people together is a strength we as trans people rely on. There’s really not a lot of us, so we have to work with partners,” explained Susan Gapka of the Trans Lobby Group. “Cheri’s done remarkable work in the background, working with other MPPs.”
Canadian Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova also attended. Talackova successfully fought for the right to participate in the pageant after she was initially disqualified because she is transgender. DiNovo applauded Talackova’s talent, going so far as to call her an activist.
“Am I an activist?” Talackova mused after hearing these comments. “No. Did I do something very activist? Yes. So take it how you want.”
Despite the celebrations, DiNovo said she is focusing on fights not yet won.
“Anybody who sat through deputations for the GSA bill, though we had the winning amendment, knows that homophobia is alive and well in this country,” she says. “I was at a feminist Take Back the Night event just on Saturday, and one of the women, who was a survivor of child abuse, came up and said, ‘Are you the woman who brought in Toby’s Law so men are allowed to use women’s washrooms now?’
“That says to me we have work to do.”