This year instead of honouring an individual organization, Pride Toronto’s Dyke March Committee chose to recognize an entire community. Older lesbians and dykes will be leading the march, hailed as the heroes who have pushed through discrimination and stereotypes to make Toronto a better place for all women, younger dykes included.
“Some of the lesbians in the Dyke March were the courageous women who lived and loved during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, a time when it was dangerous even to be suspected of being lesbian,” says Heather-Ann Brown, an older lesbian activist and advocate who will be out marching on Saturday.
“We are your past, present and future. We fought shoulder to shoulder with the gay men after the Toronto bathhouse raids in 1981 and we continue to fight to the present day. It’s fantastic that our efforts are finally being recognized.”
Political activist and artist Kathleen Brindley, now 61, who fought in the American Civil Rights movement before fleeing to Canada, plans to be out all weekend. “Personally, I think we should be honoured because we were the first to challenge the gender role stereotyping and be a political voice for change. A lot of us went to jail for our early political views which is all but forgotten. Young people today take all this for granted.
Sue Wells, 56-year-old activist and founder of the Toronto Amazons Motorcycle Club who will be riding in both the Dyke March and the Pride Parade adds, “Being a political activist these days, I tell everyone you’ve got to know your history. If you don’t know how things were achieved you don’t know how easily they can be taken away. You also don’t know how recently they were achieved. It’s a good thing to honour older lesbians, especially the activists among us who know a lot about queer and regular history who know that we have to remain active.”
Keep an eye out during the Dyke March for members of Fiftyplus, Gushing Grannies and the Older Lesbian Gathering (formerly LesBiT), local organizations of older lesbians and dykes.
There’ll be no mis-taking this year’s Pride Week theme, Bursting With Fruit Flavours, when the group of honour kicks off the parade.
The Lesbian And Gay Community Appeal’s float will be bursting with its own fruit flavours as it follows behind the parade’s grand marshal, long-time activist George Hislop. The group’s 24-foot flatbed truck will be awash with fruity colours, as performance troupe The Fruits entertain, and musicians beat on drums and blow into didgeridoos, which are wooden wind instruments traditional to the Aborigines of Australia.
While this year’s theme is meant to reclaim the word “fruit” and to celebrate the diverse “flavours” of the queer community, fruit has played an integral role in the Appeal’s long history.
The Fruits are the Appeal’s mascots, says Doug Kerr, the co-chair of the organization’s board of directors. They’re volunteer community members who’ve been dressing up a banana, a kiwi, an orange, a tomato, a pineapple and blueberries on the Appeal’s behalf for the past two decades.
They’ve also performed at Fruit Cocktail, cabaret shows that the Appeal sponsored every couple of years to raise money for the group.
“We’re hoping to get the parade off to a great start,” says the Appeal’s managing director, Jack Harmer, who’s organizing the float. “We’re in this for fun.”
Joining in on the fun will be dozens of supporters who’ll march behind the float.
For the past year, he says, the Appeal, which provides grants for projects in the queer community, has been trying to reconnect with the thousands of donors and volunteers, as well as the more than 300 grant recipients, who built the Appeal since it was founded in 1980.
Kerr hopes many of the recipients will turn up on Sunday to march along with them.
“We’re trying to track down people,” he says. “The profile we get from the parade will really help invigorate the Appeal.”
This is the first time the 24-year-old organization has been chosen as the parade’s honoured group.
Anyone who’s been conn-ected with the Appeal who wants to march with the group should e-mail info@lgca or call (416) 920-5422.
* The Dyke March is Sat, Jun 26 at 2pm. The Pride Parade is Sun, Jun 27 at 2pm. Please see the Ultimate Pride Guide, for maps and detailed information.