Following pressure from activists, the City of Toronto has reversed its decision and will now issue a permit for the annual Trans March to take place on Yonge Street.
But it’s not the route trans activists wanted.
The permit allows marchers to travel south on Yonge from Charles Street to Wood Street following a rally at George Hislop Parkette.
At a May 17 meeting, activists decided to march south on Yonge to Carlton Street. From there, the group will head east along Carlton to Allan Gardens, where a picnic is planned with performers, music, food and drinks.
Last month, trans activists reacted angrily when the City of Toronto denied them a permit for a Yonge Street march for the third year in a row. Soon after that, Pride Toronto, which normally organizes an “official” Trans March on Church Street, cancelled it and announced plans for a rally.
Pride Toronto will not reflect the longer route planned by activists in its official Pride Guide – which went to the printers last week – says Pride Toronto co-chair Sean Hillier.
“This whole situation is a big mess,” says Christin Milloy, one of the activists organizing the Yonge Street march. “The Trans March is not a Pride Toronto event. It is a community march. Pride Toronto cancelled the [official] march. Now that the permit has been issued by the city, Pride is trying to take it back.”
Milloy says the Pride Guide should have reflected the march route that’s been finalized by organizers or no route at all, showing just “TBA” where a map should be.
“They are not presenting information accurately in the Pride Guide,” she says. “They should have rejected the permit because it’s not what we asked for. That’s not the route of the march. It’s not a Pride Toronto [event] anymore, so why are they even publishing a route at all?”
Hillier says the board decided to include the shorter march route in the guide because that’s the route rubber-stamped by the city. “Our Trans March team has been working with activists, and we will provide marshals and support,” he says. “We will march to Wood Street, then the activists will continue the march to Allan Garden.”
Hillier says a permit provides safety for some trans community members who may be undocumented or have legal concerns. “We heard from some people that there are concerns with participating in an illegal march,” he says. “This gives people options.”
Milloy says trans activists chose not to apply for their own permit. “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is our permit.”
Regardless of what’s in the Pride Guide, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says the city’s about-face is a victory for trans activists, even if it’s not the exact route they requested.
“Even if there was no permit being issued, there’s nothing stopping activists from taking to the streets to do something that is well in their rights, and that’s marching peacefully on Yonge,” she says. “Now they can march with a permit.”
Making the march “official” with a city-issued permit bodes well for any Trans March during WorldPride in 2014, Wong-Tam says. “If the police have been able to work around their scheduling and limited resources this year, then I certainly anticipate they will be able to accommodate a much larger Trans March next year.”
Victor Kwong, Toronto Police Service’s media relations officer, did not respond to Xtra‘s request for comment.
Meanwhile, the Trans March program has other new additions this year. For the first time, the event has an honoured person and a trans honoured group.
Trans activist Nicki Ward says the organizing committee unanimously selected Kyle Scanlon as its honoured person. Scanlon, the former 519 Community Centre’s trans support worker, died by suicide last year. “The fallen,” a group representing all trans people who have been murdered or committed suicide, is this year’s honoured group.
Susan Gapka, PT’s only trans board member and one of the founders of the Trans Lobby Group, wasn’t part of the meeting that finalized the march route and honoured positions. She says the decision to honour Scanlon recognizes that trans people are some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people within the queer community – even those like Scanlon, who devoted his career to helping others.
“It seems like a really good idea to honour Kyle,” she says. “His death really troubled me. I think that it troubled a lot of people. “