Photograph by: Erin Edghill
People have been gathering for LGBTQ+ pride celebrations for over 4 decades in Canada. It’s a chance for folks to celebrate their diversity, and for friends and family to show support and solidarity. It’s a reminder to folks to be proud of who they are; an affirmation of acceptance, love, diversity, and equity. It’s also a chance to pay homage to members of the LGBTQ+ community who fought for the acceptance that is now present, and those who are still fighting for more.
Pride as we know it in Toronto began as a show of solidarity to the gay community, in part inspired by the Stonewall Riots. Participants would have small picnics at Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island, on the Toronto Islands, and eventually these picnics became annual events that attracted very large crowds, eventually growing into Pride Week in 1974 without any official recognition from the city. In 1981 police performed a series of bathhouse raids, which caused mass outrage, and many protests within the community and the city, solidifying the need for an annual celebration of pride and solidarity. The city continued to avoid addressing Pride Week until 1991, when Pride Week was officially announced for the first time. Several years later, in 1995, Barbara Hall started the tradition of having the city’s mayor march in the parade.
Traditionally, Pride celebrations happen throughout the month of June in memorial of the Stonewall riots, and are a great way to kick off the summer! Throughout the month, there are loads of events that embrace LGBTQ+ folks, and the diversity in the community including flag raising, dance parties, awards ceremonies for community activists, drag performances, concerts, and family centred activities that all lead up to a huge parade through the downtown core, attended by over one million people.
Though Pride has become a party, it is still representative of a history of protest. So as you celebrate this month, remember those who came before you, embrace those who are marginalized, and have fun!
- Bronwyn Edghill