Kingston Pride is under fire after members of its executive committee told a trans community member that they did not want them marching with “angry” messages at the parade.
Two local organizations, ReelOUT and OPIRG, organized a sign-making event geared toward members of the trans community prior to Kingston Pride’s planned parade on June 13.
(Photo credit: Christopher Canning/Flickr)
On a Facebook page for the event, organizers explained that they were “offering you the opportunity to make signs that show your support and love for Kingston’s Transgender communities; or perhaps you wish to send a message of anger or outrage on how transgender communities are being neglected by both mainstream queer organizing as well as by the larger society.”
Jackie LaRonde, who was invited to attend the event by ReelOUT, re-posted it in several other local Kingston Facebook group pages.
On one of those pages, Kingston Shameless Promotions, Kingston Pride chairman Roger Dodier commented on LaRonde’s post on June 10, “Kingston Pride will not tolerate any anger of any kind as indicated in the message above and furthermore, your organization should and must register for the parade.”
However, Bill Seymour, Kingston Pride’s director of communications, tells Daily Xtra that they were concerned that the event was promoting anger and that it sounded to them like participants would be demonstrating contrary to Pride’s values. “This a peaceful group,” he says. “We don’t want anybody displaying angry messages; they should be proud messages.”
He also admits that Kingston Pride organizers were concerned that people would be protesting against Kingston Pride itself. “There are many groups in Kingston — gay groups, queer groups in Kingston who oppose Kingston Pride — and that was also one of our concerns.”
After Dodier left his post on Facebook, an email, allegedly written by Seymour, was leaked online. In it, the writer, seemingly referring to LaRonde, wrote, “I can’t believe this woman has the audacity to place herself and her group in the parade with a total political agenda. The Village Fair and the parade is an opportunity for gay members of this community to show that they are proud of who they are, without any political agenda.”
“This is not a platform to display ones’ anger, as she so blatantly notes. It’s a day(s) of celebration,” the letter continues. “If she and her group wish to partake in the parade fine but leave your anger at home. The provincial parties are not allowed to display their political platforms during this celebration and I see no reason why this group should either.”
Political groups have marched in Kingston Pride — in 2013, members of the Liberal Party are pictured walking in the parade with Liberal Party signs. Seymour said they are allowed to march but that the groups don’t do any kind of “politicking” in the parade.
Seymour says that the email was written by another board member. “I do not recall — honestly do not recall — sending that.” Daily Xtra later received a brief statement from Dodier, who confirmed that Seymour did in fact write the email.
LaRonde is still shocked at her role in this controversy. “I was just mind blown,” she says. “I know there are some long term issues between the LGB community and the trans community but at least on Pride, put on a happy face.”
Despite the Pride movement’s grassroots origins as a fight for queer liberation, trans people have long been raising concerns that they have been marginalized and excluded from Pride organizations and other cisgender-run LGBT groups. Many trans supporters have complained that these groups often prioritize organizing around sexual orientation while ignoring gender identity.
In Toronto, trans community members organized grassroots marches for several years before Pride Toronto formally included the event in their roster — and even then, grassroots marches walked independently in 2013 and 2014.
But this incident will not stop LaRonde from attending Kingston Pride on June 13. “I’m going to make a poster,” she says, though she won’t direct anything towards Pride organizers. “I’ve got much larger concerns, like Bill C-279. This is just another example of what’s been happening.”
As for how the trans community and allies might respond to Kingston Pride’s policy against political trans activism, the letter itself holds a suggestion. “As far as I’m concerned they can hold their own damn protest parade, but certainly not at ours.”
*Friday, June 12, 2015, 7pm* (Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a brief statement from Roger Dodier, chairman of Kingston Pride)