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PRIDE BECOMES UNSTOPPABLE

PridThe theme for 27th-anniversary edition will be Unstoppable, and the international grand marshal will be Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, a leading queer activist in Sri Lanka.

Pride cochair David Anderson says the choice of Flamer-Caldera reflected Pride’se Toronto has decided on the theme for this year’s Pride Week and on the international grand marshal.

desire to remember the struggles for queer equality both in Canada and around the world.

“We don’t want to forget either where we come from or the struggles that are still going on, and that many people around the world don’t have the kinds of freedom we have in Canada.

“It was a deliberate decision to highlight an individual who is very much involved in grassroots advocacy for queer people. It really goes to the heart of who we are and what we represent. She’s absolutely thrilled to be Toronto’s international marshal.”

Flamer-Caldera was one of the founders in 1999 of the Women’s Support Group, the only group for lesbian and bisexual women and trans people in Sri Lanka. In 2004, she started a new organization called Equal Ground, the only group in Sri Lanka representing the entire queer spectrum, and the only one fighting for the human rights of homosexuals. After the tsunami struck Sri Lanka at the end of 2004, Equal Ground was extremely active in collecting what it called “pink dollars” for aid and relief in the country.

But in a country riven by ethnic conflicts, queers have often faced persecution — including violence and even death — from all sides. In parts of Sri Lanka, Tamil extremists and Muslim militias impose a death penalty for queers. In other parts, the rise of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism has led to homosexuality being condemned as a western import and the advocacy of intolerance and discrimination to queers, often culminating in violence.

Flamer-Caldera is also currently the co-secretary general of the International Lesbian And Gay Association (ILGA). She was initially elected to the position in 2003 and was reelected at the organization’s world conference in Geneva in 2006. Prior to her 2003 election, she was the female representative for Asia to the ILGA executive board. She was instrumental in organizing the first-ever ILGA Asia Regional Conference in Mumbai, India in 2002.

At a general meeting last month Pride members also voted Unstoppable as the theme.

“If Fearless [last year’s theme] was about facing prejudice with dignity and courage, the theme of Unstoppable means a maturing of our community — acceptance, legal, self-respect, love of ourselves and each other, hopefully living in freedom,” Anderson told attendees.

The meeting was presented with two choices, narrowed down from about 20 that had been sent in to the organization from as far away as Europe. The list had been narrowed down by a meeting of committee chairs in December.

The runner-up was “gAy To Z.” Several Pride members at the meeting objected to this theme on the grounds that in only mentioning “gay,” excluding other groups within Pride’s spectrum (It defines its communities as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and two-spirited.”

Supporters of “gAy to Z” pointed out that it was meant to be a humorous play on words.

“It’s intended to be as inclusive as possible,” said Anderson in presenting it as an option. “We use a lot of letters to describe our community. It’s intended to provide an opportunity to tell stories of bisexuals, trans, two-spirited, intersex, questioning.”

Before the vote, Anderson told the meeting which choice the board favoured.

“The board would prefer that you choose Unstoppable, because it fits in better with the international aspects.”

Anderson’s comment led to accusations from some meeting participants that he was trying to intimidate them into choosing a particular option.