At first I thought I’d misheard. Three irate middle-aged gay men stood at Xtra’s front desk, furious that Pride-goers were being shut out of their Village apartment complex. That’s right, these men actually wanted Pride revellers to make use of the leafy gardens and park space surrounding the City Park Co-operative, which stretches along Church Street from Alexander to Wood streets.
In the week leading up to Pride, City Park staff had attempted to secure the perimeter of the complex, absurdly posting as many as 100 signs warning any would-be “trespassers” to stay away. “If people want to sit on our lawn, let them sit on our lawn. What’s the big problem?” asked Dennis Darnley, a City Park resident.
And he’s right — City Park administrators were not being very neighbourly. But they weren’t the only ones. For some reason, Pride season brings out a lot of anger and exclusion.
Take several comments on our new Daily Xtra website bemoaning the hordes of straight people “ruining” Pride. “From the security guard, to the police officer onsite, the servers to event staff drivers, donation drive volunteers to parade entrants, it felt more straight than anything LGBTQ,” wrote one commenter. “What a waste of our tax dollars!”
But wait: straight people are taxpayers, too. And they’re also our brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues and parents. Who decided Pride is only for gay people? The point of all this gay-rights activism stuff is to find and welcome straight allies, no?
Trans March organizers came up against similar obstinacy when several allies from the Toronto Police Service (including trans and queer officers) expressed interest in marching to show solidarity. Instead of welcoming these people, trans activists excluded them and asked them not to march.
This type of activism keeps gay and trans people on a hamster wheel of our own creation. I recognize that police have been horrible to trans people, and I know all too well how awful straight people have been to gays. But if we cling to this narrative and insist on maintaining the status quo, what’s the point of all this marching and protesting? Police and straight people are not going anywhere; we might as well let the nice ones come and play with us. It just might make the game more fun.
Next year I dare cranky queer Torontonians to pause during Pride Week. Resist sniping about long beer queues, excessive corporate sponsorship and straight people, and take a moment to savour how very special it is that we live in a city where hundreds of thousands of people from every walk of life come out for one weekend to celebrate all things queer.
Pride is something to be shared, which I imagine is one of the reasons Toronto was chosen to host WorldPride. Mayor Rob Ford, his city council cronies, Stephen Harper and Tim Hudak’s Conservatives, homophobic and transphobic police officers — we’ve got enough enemies who don’t want anything to do with us.
Next year, when we host the world, let’s remember our real adversaries and stop excluding our allies. Let’s let go of our anger and practise activism that gets results. Let’s be neighbourly and open our spaces to anyone who wants to come celebrate with us. And let’s remember just how far we’ve come.