How to Celebrate Toronto Pride
June is Pride Month, and all across Canada it’s an opportunity to celebrate diversity and the LGBTQ2S+ community. (LGBTQ2S+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, 2-Spirit, and additional orientations.) While it’s important to support the queer community throughout the year, June is a special time for Canadians to celebrate.
Pride 2021 follows a long legacy of Pride events, marches, and celebrations that honour a movement for equality and acceptance for all people, regardless of their sexuality or gender identities. These celebrations are a response to the marginalization and discrimination the LGBTQ2S+ community has faced. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the many facets of queer identity and for allies of the community to show their support. This article explores how Pride Month began and how you can celebrate.
What is Pride Month?
Pride Month grew out of a long legacy of protest and change movements in response to the violence, discrimination, and marginalization the LGBTQ2S+ community has faced. Pride Month in North America is deeply connected to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York. The raid resulted in a riot and a protest from the community as a response to the discrimination and violence against them. The event sparked a six-day protest that aimed to create a safe space and world for LGBTQ2S+ people to live without fear of persecution or arrest. Pride Month exists in honour of the Stonewall riots and other similar movements and events. Toronto’s own Pride March is part of this legacy of Pride marches and celebrations.
A history of Pride Month in Toronto and Canada
Toronto is known for its Pride events and recognized as hosting one of the largest North American Pride celebrations. The history of Pride Toronto began in February 1981, when Toronto Police raided four gay bathhouses in Toronto and arrested almost three hundred men. After the incident, protests and rallies rose up around Ontario; a similar reaction to the Stonewall riots in New York a decade earlier. This event sparked a demonstration called “Operation Soap,” which closed down Yonge and Wellesley streets and was a catalyst for the formation of several Canadian activist groups who fought for gay rights and freedoms.
Toronto Pride Day took place later that year on June 28th. The event attracted enormous crowds and sparked political waves. In 1994, Toronto broke records when almost 40,000 people gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Pride events of 1994 were especially remarkable, as Pride activists and allies formed a human chain around the legislative assembly as a massive demonstration to support LGBTQ2S+ rights. Toronto Pride is still one of the biggest Pride events in North America.
When is Pride Month celebrated?
Pride Month takes place throughout June, with most pride events happening the two weekends of June. Toronto Pride Parade is one of the most famous Pride events in North America. It takes place on June 27th, 2021 and is especially momentous as this year Pride Toronto celebrates its 40th year. Other major Canadian cities also celebrate Pride throughout June or later in the summer.
Who participates in Pride Month?
Pride Month festivities are first and foremost a celebration of the history, courage and diversity within the LGBTQ2S+ community. But Pride Month can also be a time for allies, activists, and supporters to engage with and celebrate the queer community.
What to expect during Pride Month events
Pride Month events and festivals are designed to be a safe space for people from a broad spectrum of queer identities, backgrounds, and cultural traditions to celebrate and express themselves without fear of judgement. Some events feature speakers and panels, while others are a chance to dance, mingle, and make new friends who are celebrating along with you.
While many of this year’s events are taking place online, it doesn’t mean they have lost the spirit of Pride. From a country-style drag show to DJs to a virtual brunch to a Sunday tea dance to a two-spirit circle, these virtual events will still be a celebration. One that anyone in Canada can enjoy from the comfort of their home.
How can I be an ally during Pride Month?
An ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community is someone who cares about the advocacy and inclusivity of the groups being celebrated during Pride Month. Whether you’re an ally attending a socially distanced event or a virtual one, allow space for those in the queer community. This could look like respectfully cheering on others, watching from the sidelines, and joining in when invited. If you’re online, hold space in conversations or forums for queer individuals to take part. While Pride is for everyone, these colourful and joyous celebrations grew out of a long history of violence, discrimination and marginalization. When it comes to being a good ally, follow rather than lead. And remember, it’s not about you.
How can I celebrate Pride?
Here are three ways you can join the Pride celebration and show support as an ally and advocate during Pride Month.
1. Attend an event or pride parade
Events like Pride Toronto are a chance for groups to gather and meet with other people who may share their gender identity or sexuality. In gathering and celebrating who they are, these communities are saying “we belong.” As an ally, attending events is a way to say you support the queer community and want everyone to feel accepted, celebrated, and seen for who they are. This year many of the popular Pride events will be available to stream online. Ways you can participate include virtually attend Toronto’s Pride Parade, stream the raising of the Pride Flag, watch special content from LGBTQ2S+ creators, or connect with Pride Toronto’s online guide to this year’s events.
2. Have conversations with others about LGBTQ2S+ issues and celebrate people who are part of this community.
If you have family members or friends who identify with a group under the LGBTQ2S+ umbrella, this is a great time to show your support. Send a text saying “Happy Pride!” or participate in an online Pride event or celebration. If you have people in your life who may not understand what Pride Month represents and its significance, this is a chance to share what you’ve learned. Encourage them to support people in the queer community who are celebrating Pride.
4. Post on social media in support of Pride
While posting on social media is not the same as actively taking part and supporting folks who celebrate Pride, it can still be a way to show your support. Highlight Pride Month and be vocal about the importance of inclusion on your social media accounts. This can be a way to reach people who don’t know about Pride or may not have considered the experience of those who are marginalized or discriminated against based on their gender or sexual identity. You can share articles on the history of Pride, the history of Canadian Pride, or share why you’re celebrating Pride Month as an ally. If you’re attending an event or taking a photo during Pride Month, include a rainbow flag or emoticon to show that you’re celebrating the queer community beyond June.
Where is Pride Month celebrated?
Pride Month is celebrated around the world but Canada features a wealth of Pride events throughout the month of June. This year Toronto’s Pride Events are easy to attend from anywhere in Canada because they’re primarily virtual. Explore the full calendar online and don’t miss the Pride Parade on June 27th from 2-3pm.
Here are some more Pride events to explore online and across Canada:
This Pride Month show your support as an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community by respectfully attending Pride events, either virtually or in-person, and by educating yourself more on issues that affect the queer community. One way you can do this is to learn more about LGBTQ2S+ organizations and charities in Canada. These organizations provide important resources, campaign for change, and give a voice to the queer community.
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