A website editor told me last year he was reprimanded by Pride Toronto organizers for using the phrase “Pride Day.” There isn’t one here in Toronto. Just a Pride Week.
I thought he was exaggerating until a copy of The Official Pride Dictionary arrived on my desk a couple of weeks ago. Issued by Pride Toronto as “really useful information about Pride Toronto,” Pride Day is listed under “foul language.” So is Gay And Lesbian Pride Day (not inclusive enough), Pride Committee (there are several committees and employees responsible for hosting Pride) and Toronto Pride (perhaps this is the name of a racehorse, resulting in a copyright conflict).
Other bad words include Pride Weekend, Pride Festival, Pride Fair, Pride Office, LGB, LGBT and LGBTT. The official acronym for Pride’s target groups is LGBTTIQ: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex and queer. To really keep up with trends, though, they need another T for two-spirited, another Q for questioning and an asterisk for those not included in the defined categories.
As I haven’t seen language cops swaggering around Zelda’s interrupting excited conversations about wardrobe choices for Pride Day, I’ll take a guess that this dictionary is intended for media. And I do feel the sting. Chatting with Michelle Maxwell, Pride’s (oops, Pride Toronto’s) new manager of volunteer development, I laughingly mentioned that here at Xtra we still have our photos filed under “Gay Pride,” since that’s what it was commonly called when we started filing back in the 1980s. Maxwell – obviously a sweet, perky, smart and committed person – looked at me in absolute horror. I felt like I had admitted to a war crime.
It’s easy to mock this linguistic angst, but it signals real growing pains for Pride Toronto. This corporate brand management – after all, the stakes are millions of consumer eyeballs and millions of dollars in spending – sits uneasily with Pride’s roots in inclusiveness, politics and community zeitgeist. Pride Toronto has reached a point where it wants it all ways and faces demands from all directions. It wants to be treated as a serious corporate player, while asking for slack as a volunteer-driven community group. It wants to include all sexual minorities, while knowing that delivering money-spending fags into the hands of booze companies is its easiest meal ticket.
Traditionally a volunteer-driven event, Pride has grown so mammoth, the only volunteers who dare offer their services for senior positions are ones with special employment circumstances: they don’t have jobs, they work part-time or they have employers who turn a blind eye to Pride work being done on work time. Pride didn’t have a female co-chair for months until Ayse Turak signed up and was elected last week. Coordinators are still required for essential fields like entertainment, fundraising, media, and youth.
As one of the world’s biggest queer events, Pride Toronto is faced with the possibility of being used by those who can manipulate its inclusive structure. In the election for grand marshal and honoured group, anyone who shows up at the meeting can vote. At the election last week representatives from groups seeking the titles easily outnumbered Pride volunteers. About 60 people attended – the vote might have been swayed by as few as 15. Are you ready for when the Canadian Conference Of Catholic Bishops wants to be honoured group?
(Though they did not attend with the biggest body count at the elections, the group Teens Educating And Confronting Homophobia won the title of honoured group, a sign that politics have not yet outweighed worthiness.)
This balancing act between past and future, professionalism and inclusivness is being performed by only a tiny fraction of the people who care about and attend Pride. It’s an awfully tough job. That’s why we love them.
Paul Gallant is Managing Editor for Xtra.