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Pride highlights international struggle

For the second year Pride Toronto is offering a Global Human Rights for Queers series during Pride Week.

This year’s program — which includes a film screening, two panel discussions and an art exhibit — was inspired by Pride Parade international grand marshal Victor Juliet Mukasa, an international trans activist from Uganda.

“We focused on Jamaica last year when our international grand marshal was Gareth Henry,” says Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands, of the Jamaican gay activist who now lives in Toronto. “This year, because of Victor, the focus will be Africa.”

The series launches on Mon, Jun 22 with a screening of the 2003 film Dangerous Living: Coming Out In The Developing World, which may be the first documentary to explore queer lives in non-Western cultures, including the African nations of Kenya, Namibia and Egypt.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion entitled Queer International Human Rights at Home featuring Mukasa, Henry and Tanzanian-born refugee lawyer and activist El-Farouk Khaki, who is this year’s Pride grand marshal.

On Jun 23 the program shifts to Queen St W for Queer Peers at the Gladstone Hotel. A 7pm reception at the Art Bar will be followed by a panel discussion of international trans politics. Joining Mukasa on the panel will be trans human rights lawyer N Nicole Nussbaum, Toronto trans activist Susan Gapka, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre leader and Sierra Leone native Notisha Massaquoi, Toronto People with AIDS Speakers Bureau volunteer Christine Decelles, trans activist and Mexico City native Erika Ayal and trans sex outreach worker Evana Ortigoza. (I will be moderating the event.)

The series winds up with a three-day art exhibit at the Pride festival site from Jun 26 to 28. The exhibit will include photography, photojournalism, video and visual art documenting the state of queer human rights around the world.

When Sandilands accepted the job as executive director of Pride Toronto late last year she said she wanted to really beef up Pride’s international human rights component this year. So how did she do?

“Not as well as I would have liked. I think I was overly ambitious at that time,” she admits. “But it’s only the second year for this, and we are certainly laying the groundwork and building for the future.”