2 min

FREE free expression guidelines for Pride Toronto

You want our input? Fine. Here it is

So. Awkward.

Yesterday morning, Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands revealed that her organization was crafting a “free expression policy” — but don’t worry, she says, it will be circulated for feedback before it is set in stone. Elsewhere in the interview, she encourages people to write to her if they’re upset.

Then, in the afternoon, Kristyn Wong-Tam called her bluff. You want our input? she said. Call a public meeting and we’ll give it to you. In the meantime, Sandilands is getting an earful on public forums like Facebook and Twitter.

Wong-Tam’s comments leave Sandilands in an awkward spot. If she doesn’t agree to a meeting, then her calls for feedback sound hollow. And if she has one, then she can’t fudge the results, since everyone will be able to hear what everyone says. Messy. Public. Meaningful.

It’s been a week of backpedalling since Pride Toronto’s first press release a week ago. In its first communication, it wrote that “participating groups will be asked to ensure that messages support the theme of the 2010 festival.” It also explained that an “ethics committee” would review signage. Sandilands now says the policy is strictly to police hate speech and incitements to violence. But she also says a “free expression policy” is under development.

The consensus of queers using social media seems to be that Sandilands should apologize and retract all of it. No new policy, period.

I’m inclined to think that, after this embarrassing gaffe, Pride Toronto should adopt a positive, embracing statement about free expression. We need to see that Pride Toronto really gets it — that it understands why censorship is anathema to our community.

To that end, I’ve whipped up a draft of what I’d like to see as Pride Toronto’s free expression policy. What do you think?



Pride Toronto endorses free expression.

Pride Toronto endorses out, proud, unabashed and joyful expressions of queer life.

Pride Toronto endorses political speech. Pride Toronto endorses the unpopular, the outsider, the fringe, knowing that queers were once criminals, perverts and mentally ill according to popular opinion.Pride Toronto endorses that which makes us uncomfortable, secure in the knowledge that discord is part of democracy. Pride Toronto endorses free speech for those we disagree with, believing that the most rational, humane position will win out in the court of public opinion. Pride Toronto endorses free expression for those who are anti-gay; it is better that they are laughed out of the commons than their opinions be allowed to fester in private.

Pride Toronto endorses artistic expression without caveat or exception.

Pride Toronto endorses radical physical expression, including our queer and allied sisters in the leather, kink, body modification, femme, butch, nudist, naturist and fat activist communities. Pride Toronto holds a special place for all expression that challenges our understanding of gender. Pride Toronto endorses personal expression. Pride Toronto endorses intimate and loving expression. Pride Toronto endorses sexual expression.