Michelle Walker, co-founder of the Vancouver Dyke March and creator of superdyke.com, has declined Pride Toronto’s 2010 community service award, citing the organization’s censorship of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Walker joins a growing number of queer community leaders who have rejected honours from Pride Toronto. Alan Li turned down the grand marshal title, and Jane Farrow rejected the honoured dyke title. They have called on Pride Toronto to rescind its decision to ban use of the phrase “Israeli apartheid” at Pride events.
I was genuinely excited and honoured to be selected as the recipient of
Pride Toronto’s Community Service Award this year. However, in light of
recent free speech censorship actions taken by Pride Toronto –
censoring of the words ‘Israeli apartheid’ during this year’s Pride
celebrations – I have come to realize that to accept this award would
be to violate the spirit it honours: a dedication to queer community. I
sincerely appreciate the recognition, but until such a time that Pride
Toronto realizes the crucial importance of allowing free speech to all
of Toronto’s queer community, I must respectfully decline the honour.
Pride was born out of an insistence to be recognized – an insistence
that our lives, sexualities, bodies and politics are worthwhile. We
gathered even though people told us not to. I think this same
insistence is being reinvigorated at this time, in response to this
censorship. It is clear to me that everything and everyone in the
parade is political in some way. Whether I agree with everyone’s
politics or not, I would fiercely defend their right to participate.
I’ve seen a lot of pride in the last few weeks – the insistence to be
heard, to march, and to have our sexualities and politics in public
discourse. Pride, with or without the parade, exists in these moments.
Pride doesn’t happen only while marching down Yonge Street. For me,
pride happens in the moments when the queer community digs its heels
in, from sequins spikes to shiny black boots to wheel tread, in order
to fiercely defend the free speech of all its members. Pride happens,
perhaps especially when we’re reminded of the constant threat our
community is under, even today.
Thank you again for awarding me in recognition of my community service.
Up until recent weeks, it was a heartwarming honour. The queer
community is anxiously awaiting Pride Toronto’s next move – it is
certainly not too late to rethink recent decisions and to act within
the principles of free speech. Should Pride Toronto rescind the
censorship, I am sure the queer community would meet the decision with
enthusiasm and the Board with compassion.
cc: Members of Pride Toronto Board
- PTP to Pride Toronto: Reverse “Israeli Apartheid” ban
- Jane Farrow rejects Pride Toronto honoured dyke title
- Watch: Queers Against Israeli Apartheid at Toronto Pride 2009
- Alan Li rejects appointment as Pride Toronto grand marshal
- Banning QuAIA sets a dangerous precedent: Toronto Pride founders
- Protesters demand Pride Toronto reverse censorship decision