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On grand marshalling

Yes, it’s creeping up on us. The next issue of this paper will celebrate Capital Pride. Already, the celebration is only a few weeks away.

The queers of Ottawa quietly — and quite rightly — spent the spring shaking their heads at the mess going on with Toronto’s parade. Will they censor? Won’t they? Sure, the organizers of the country’s largest Pride celebration eventually came to their senses and allowed all groups, even the controversial ones, to march. But what a ghastly ordeal in the meantime.

Largely lost in that madness was another organizational shift, enacted in the dead of winter: Pride Toronto will no longer have an open balloting process to choose its grand marshal. Instead, it moved to have a cabal of former honorees select the recipient, with nominees vetted by Pride Toronto before the vote.

Capital Pride does not have an open, queer vote to choose its marshals either. The marshal is chosen, as far as I know, by the Capital Pride board members.

Now, I don’t have a problem with the previous grand marshals at Capital Pride — they include some of the city’s hardest-working queer and trans activists, people I really respect, people like former AIDS Committee of Ottawa chair Kevin Hatt and former Pride chair Joanne Law.

But if Ottawa moved to a voting model, organizers could add another layer of excitement to the Pride week lead-up. The title would have extra prestige because it would be awarded by the queers of the city. And I think it could lead to some outside-the-box candidacies.

Not this year, of course. That ship has sailed. But how cool would it be for Shelley Taylor of Venus Envy to lead the Parade in 2011? Or the Sexual Overtones? Or Glenn Crawford?

It costs nothing to do, but the potential benefits are far-reaching. You can’t buy that kind of goodwill.

If Capital Pride belongs to all of us, then why not invite all of us — or at least all of Capital Pride’s membership — to have a say in who is its grand marshal?

Marcus McCann is the managing editor of Xtra.