Not one but two trans marches will make their way down Yonge Street as part of WorldPride celebrations on June 27.
Last year, the Trans March officially sanctioned by Pride Toronto was partially confined to the Church-Wellesley Village, since it lacked the city permit required to march down much of Yonge Street. A breakaway group nonetheless marched illegally down more of Yonge Street, which annually hosts the Pride parade and Dyke March.
“It’s the symbolic main fare of the city,” says trans activist Christin Milloy.
Milloy says many members of the trans community wanted Pride Toronto to ensure the Trans March had a similar route to the Dyke March and the Pride parade. “Trans March is and will remain a political march,” Milloy says. “So it is necessary to take that message to all of the people.”
This year, Pride Toronto not only secured a permit for Yonge Street but lengthened the Trans* Pride March route (the asterisk indicates that “trans” is an umbrella term referring to all identities within the gender-identity spectrum). Milloy, encouraged by Pride Toronto’s commitment, joined Pride Toronto to help organize the Trans* Pride March this year.
That march, which is affiliated officially with WorldPride, begins with a rally at the North Stage at the corner of Church and Isabella streets at 7pm on June 27, travels up to Bloor Street and then down Yonge Street, ending at Yonge-Dundas Square for a concert with several prominent trans musicians.
Susan Gapka, a member of the Pride Toronto board and a trans activist, credits the unsanctioned trans marchers from previous years; they helped secure this year’s permit for Yonge Street, she says.
But the organizers of Trans March Toronto, which is not affiliated with Pride Toronto, say the affiliated march has strayed from the political roots of the original Trans March in 2009.
It’s no coincidence that the independent march begins and ends in two parks (George Hislop Park and Allan Gardens), co-organizer Nicki Ward says. “The route is deliberately non-commercial,” she says. Trans March Toronto starts at the same time as the Trans* Pride March.
“Our understanding is that the Trans March belongs to the trans community always,” she adds. “It doesn’t belong to Pride Inc.”
Some in the community fear the confusion that having two marches at the same time may cause. Kira Andry, a local member of the trans community, organized a meeting June 21 at the Ryerson University student centre in the hope of uniting both marches under the same banner.
Andry (who uses the pronoun “they”) says that while representatives from Pride Toronto came to the meeting, none of the organizers from Trans March Toronto attended. Ward did not respond to requests to confirm whether representatives from the independent march attended.
Andry believes the trans community has more important things to focus on than which march to attend, like ensuring that Bill C-279, which would add gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, passes.
“Honestly, there is so much politics and nonsense on both sides,” they say.
Organizers from both marches share some priorities: to create a safe space for trans people to march in. Milloy says the Trans* Pride team have addressed past concerns about transphobia among private security hired for the event by providing anti-transphobia training to staff. March volunteers have also been instructed to introduce themselves with the pronoun they would prefer to be addressed by.
At the Trans March Toronto, Ward says, counsellors from the 519 Church Street Community Centre will be on hand to assist people who may find themselves overwhelmed or emotionally distressed during the event.
As Gapka sees it, both marches will provide the same thing. “Whatever happens, we are committed to having a safe and enjoyable and celebratory and defiant march,” she says. “Whatever your preferred starting and ending point is.”