Tagged: Black Lives Matter


Don’t fight about Pride, arm yourself with facts. Mainstream media, and to a large extent the larger non-LGBT community, have helped to perpetuate a few myths about BLM and Pride and the reasoning behind it all. Below are some common statements you might hear concerning Pride and a suggested answer.

Divisive or Connective?
How a person chooses to view the world impacts how they interact with it. If you see Pride as creating a divide than you are right, that’s what it is for you. Conflict exists as a function of communication which can make things better, or for some it’ll create fear. Either are okay but it’s when we are not in touch with our emotions, we essentially put ourselves into a bubble.

If I told my aunt I had a cold or a bad encounter with a bully at school she would discount my entire experience, trading my feelings for how she wanted to see me. “Oh you just need some rest.”, “Ignore them, they don’t matter.”, “But you can do everything they can, you’re just letting them get to you.”. While I admire her ability to maintain an aura of peace around our family I started to notice that what she was doing was protecting herself from having to get involved and possibly experience the pain the comes from identifying with my powerlessness. She loved me dearly so her comments were meant from a place of love, yet their effect was profoundly dismissive. She was right, Maybe I should try harder, be less loud or try ignoring the situation. But is this helping to solve my problem? It does make my aunt feel better and affirm to her that she’s on the outside looking in. In reality she’s now complicit in the problem, confirming that my bullies are right.

Tolerance is being with others whose life experiences are different from yours and not trying to change that. Don’t think there’s a problem? That’s okay, but anything you contribute to the larger conversation, is still a contribution. The world has never gotten along and while it’s a nobble goal, it’s perhaps a naive one. Peace and goodwill are concepts, not ways of life. Peace cannot exist in a vacuum, it comes with non-peace. We can pretend it’s otherwise, but the wars still rage. If you find yourself asking ‘What’s the problem?’, that’s a good start. If you don’t want to get involved that’s your right.

While concentration camps are being built in Chechnya, Torontonians could ask themselves what has been their contribution to the Pride/Police debate? What you experience is directly related to how you experience the world. Some see conflict as destructive while others use it to be constructive. ‘I have better things to do’, ‘this is all nonsense’ is a contribution. Albeit, not a very constructive one.

Statement: The police union claims this is discriminatory because everyone should be allowed to march.
 With friends like these, who needs enemies? Instead of curiosity about what’s wrong, they try and out-victim the victims. By police logic the Boy Scouts, women’s only hours and seniors homes who prohibit one group in favour of another are therefore discriminatory because they are restricted to those it was created for. The gym I go to is owned by a university who close it daily for a women’s only hour. Imagine if the school threatened the gym’s funding, because they were prohibiting men. It’s fantastic if men support the space but insisting they are allies and therefore be able to work out with them misses the point entirely.

Making space’s safe by prohibiting others from taking too much space is how an unhealthy balance can be restored, even if only temporarily. By police logic our allies are picked for us, like it or not. It’s nice to have allies but since when did we imbue them with this much power over our parade? A local politician who comes to your annual house party is not an ally in the same way as the straight friend who calls you up periodically to see how your doing. The police are that once a year politician.

Statement: There are better ways to achieve change within the LGBT community.
A: What happened this past Pride might only news to some, it’s been ongoing for decades.

Statement: How is banning cops going to help bring people together?
A: The cops have not been banned. Their guns, tasers and uniforms are. The cops that are there in an official capacity are not at question. Just the ones who want to march with us.

Statement: BLM tactics are too aggressive.
A: To put things in perspective, our current parade is the result of over 1,000 LGBT people marching down Yonge Street in 1981, no permits, yelling “Fuck-you 52!”. When a handful of black people organize a peaceful sit-in for 20 minutes they are branded aggressive. Hmmm.

Statement: Pride is for everyone, we all should be included.
A: This would mean all of our allies should feel safe before we do. Pride has never been for all human rights, you’re thinking of the Santa Claus Parade. All parades stand for something but that doesn’t mean they against everything else.

Statement: All Lives Matter.
A: No, actually they don’t. Not equally. That’s what this is all about. If all lives mattered, there wouldn’t be a parade in the first place.

Statement: Why is everything in the LGBT community about sex and gender?
A: Because that’s the definition of LGBT, who and how we choose to love. Let’s not confuse it with fashion sense or any other ‘lifestyle’ choice.

Statement: They’ve taken over Pride.
A: Who then should get more space? Viagra, The Pickle Barrel, TD, Trojan, Fido, Bud Light, Stoli, Air Canada, Truvada or Toyota? While making room for the general public and importing high-priced talent from the US (and elsewhere) they were simultaneously striping the communities longest running stage, Blockorama, of half its operating funds, then axed the black queer youth and south asian stage. Meanwhile the cost to participate in Pride has become inaccessible to much of the community. Does your community event want a listing in the Pride Guide? Pay up.

Statement: But what about the funding?
A: In recent history TD demanded all plackets and banners be pre-approved by them (at first ask, Pride obliged), Trojan demanded that NO other condoms be used or sold at Pride (Pride obliged, banning ALL competitors condoms and forcing AIDS organizations to strike a deal with Trojan) and then some of our ‘allies’ at city hall threatened to cut funding based on who we decided was allowed in our parade. Do you really want our funding to be used to control us? Here, let me give you $100 to support you being you. Just keep yourself small and don’t cause a fuss if you want to see another $100 next year. It’s the golden rule of fundraising, don’t set up a conflict where you allow your sponsors to dictate what you do. That’s not an ally.

Statement: What’s the big deal, the cops are our friends.
A: Not to everyone. Shree Paradkar of the Toronto Star puts it like this “the power dynamics between an armed, uniformed, institutionalized force and a grassroots grouping of pariahs would have made accusations of reverse discrimination laughable. One was formed out of protest to the other. The inherent tension did not warrant an inclusion of the perpetrator and executor of inequality.”

Imagine having grown up in the residential school system where many of your teachers regularly beat you and many of your peers. There’s no one around to help and so the abuse continues year after year. One day there’s a march for of Freedom From Residential Schools, a celebration of aboriginal freedom. But there’s a catch. Residential teachers from every single school in the province are going to show up and march alongside with you as your allies.

Statement: BLM lost an opportunity to get outsiders onside.
A: Read the Salon article Black People Are Not Here To Teach You

Statement: Cops are great people, some are even identify as LGBT.
A: Yes, the same goes for any industry. The people are not in question as much as the institution. As far as organizations one doesn’t have to look far to get a sense for the corruption. It’s one thing to have a bad or rouge cop but the bigger problem is that bad cops are often protected while the people they are paid to keep safe, are not.

Statement: They are dividing Pride.
It doesn’t have to feel like that. What if we all take a step back and ask ourselves, is this what we really want? Surely there’s always room for improvement and dialogue. The same goes for the police. Wouldn’t it be something if Pride uses it’s position for the betterment of our city? The conversations with the police is about making relations better. We will all benefit from that, even the cops.

Statement: Why can’t they just ask, instead of forcing the issue.
They have been, for years. BLM is not a group unto itself. They represent many groups throughout the city and use their actions to tackle shared problems. Not too long ago AIDS forced an entire generation to demand change in the same way. Peaceful disruptions like die-ins were tactics that worked when asking failed. The LGBT movement grew from anger and frustration, asking and waiting had failed. Historically most change happens this way, through peaceful demonstration and acts of interruption.

Statement: This is reverse racism.
A: Read the article VICE article Dear White People, Please Stop Pretending Reverse Racism Is Real

Statement: But what have we really achieved?
Remember that list of demands the Executive Director signed? They have been met.
This is not a BLM issue, they represent many community groups. Now that they have achieved their goals, it’s up to us to start acting like a community by listening to one another.

I’m straight and I don’t like what’s going on.
There’s lots you can do, but forcing your opinion is not one of them. If you are not a POC or LGBT and you have strong opinions on a matter not directly affecting you, perhaps you could check your privilege. It’s not just poor sensitive you, nobody likes conflict. But your rights are not at stake here. It’s not my place to decide if an abused woman was really abused. My job is to listen and provide support as she needs it. This goes for the reverse, victims are not always completely innocent. We are all connected and interdependent so if you think there is a universal victimhood that is automatically truthful, than you too are part of the problem. Being a victim is not a virtue, neither is being a bully. Extreme positions, create extreme situations. Listen for what’s real and speak for yourself, avoid telling others what life is or should be like.

If you have a Statement & Answer you’d like to add, or a suggestion, please leave us a comment below. 

#BlackLivesMatter Is The Best Thing To Happen to Pride Toronto Since The Orlando Shootings (An Open Letter To Mathieu Chantelois, Pride Toronto)

When I heard that 49 of my Orlando brothers and sisters died as a result of the one man’s hate fuelled rampage I felt sick because I know it’s caused by a culture that rewards homophobia, sexism and oppression. Sometimes I wonder if we are no longer in the modern era but have gone back in a time machine to more barbaric period and we just can’t see our own barbarism.

The real crime was not that Omar pulled the trigger on those innocent people but that our entire city jumped up in unison exclaiming ‘How can something like this happen given all the progress we’ve made?!” Yes we have made progress but the crime of this statement is that anyone saying it gets to remove themselves from what is actually happening. Adding further fuel to the fire was the media and public who went scrambling to make sense of this situation but instead of looking inwards at the pressure cooker of a culture we have created, people tried to make the situation about some extraordinary circumstances like how he was a product of ISIS, his father brainwashed him, he was mentally ill, etc. This is a problematic way to view a mass murder because now there is nothing we can learn if we dismiss their actions as highly unusual. Take a look at Omar Mateen’s face, he is not crazy. In fact I was bullied, picked on, tormented and harassed all the way through grade school by guys just like Omar. He’s not ill, he’s a product of this culture and is just one of many that make up the majority. Look at him. I’m serious, take a hard look at his picture and let’s not pretend that we are seeing something other then what it is. An arrogant boy who is as homophobic as he is a misogynist just like all the other bad boys our culture is supporting. Sure he made himself a connection through ISIS but I’m pretty sure he was an asshole before he sought to align with them. This is not the face of a killer, he is in fact the boy next door in more ways than one.

When the news of those 49 victims hit Toronto weeks prior to our biggest LGBT celebration it was an opportunity for the city to take a hard look at itself. And we did. At The 519 candlelight vigil the next evening the speeches were filled with rage, sadness and talk of being political once again. Suddenly Toronto remembered that while we may have won the battle, the war is far from over and most importantly we all learned that the world only appears safe to those who live in relative privilege. It’s sad and deeply tragic that we had to wake-up as the result of these deaths but at least these people will not die in vain. Even Pride Toronto delivered speeches that resembled something a leader who cares for the future of our planet would say.

And then Pride kicked in and the city partied, danced and completely forgot that we shouldn’t be having a party when we have so much work to do. Enter Black Lives Matter (BLM) who took Pride’s invitation to ‘Come Sit With Us’ quite literally and during the 30 minute sit-in protest gave this city a much needed gift: the gift of self-reflection but we still haven’t collectively proven that we are up to the challenge. Instead we are still arguing about whether the police should march in Pride or if #BLM tactics were fair or not. We’re all missing the opportunity for some self-refection because what we should be arguing about is how much we need to do with the police and the communities they are supposed to serve. What BLM did was morally courageous because they took an honoured position and used it to expose back the imbalance and injustices they experience including from organizations like Pride Toronto who instead of being inclusive has lost touch with it’s roots. BLM looked right into the whites of our eyes and demanded that we see and hear them. I see you, I hear you and I’m so sorry for the pain we keep causing. We are all a part of the problem and we need to join forces in pursuit of a solution. I know many people who have busy lives and it’s hard to talk about such difficult subjects for long stretches but please, please, please if you are tired of working this out remember the 49 dead people in Orlando.

So many people have to die in order for Canadians to wake up but this is the price of apathy. There’s also a secondary level of institutionalized discrimination on the part of Pride Toronto that needs to be addressed even before we tackle the issue with the cops. Dishearteningly many people in this city think it’s okay to discriminate one group over another as long as the group we’re repressing can be labeled a ‘terrorist’, ‘hate group’ or other such nonsense. We do need to safeguard again hate but that’s not what Pride Toronto has been tampering with. In 2010 Pride Toronto spent lots of money and resources trying to force the community to pre-approve all parade signs and banners before they set out to on a witch hunt to ban QuAIA. Last year they successfully banned the men’s group CAFE because they didn’t like their politics. Why is it that we allow Pride to decide what is okay and what is not? How about we get to make our own mistakes and if you don’t like a particular group shut up about it because you have not been appointed the morality squad. As long as you are taking cash from floats like Viagra and The Pickle Barrel you have no business telling others who they should be or what or how they can speak. Pride Toronto is publicly using words like ‘inclusiveness’ to defend the police being in the parade. It should never be up to Pride to decide who marches anyway and someone needs to call them out on this banning business because it’s only at the whim of the committee du jour.

Mathieu Chantelois, you have a wonderful opportunity to stand up and take our entire city into a whole new direction. One that is marked by leadership, innovative thinking and moral courage. Some of the major media outlets have already predicted or called for the resignation of the entire Pride staff but I would argue there’s a rainbow lining in this cloud, a catalyst to making serious change within our police system all while supporting those in our community who are the most vulnerable. Mathieu, some people may not like you if you listen to the needs of BLM but I and many others will back you up. Yes there are some good cops and some queer ones but can we stop focusing on the tiny bits of progress that we have made with them. Let’s stop pretending they lead us through a process of community reconciliation. Let’s remember that what little goodwill that exists is there becasue it came out of them harassing us on the streets, in our clubs, shops and even our homes. So we demanded action. We can congratulate the police for the progress, thank them for their dedication and then insist that we do some serious talking with our black and trans family. This is not a right/wrong paradigm, it’s shades of dirty grey that is getting more tainted the longer we turn our backs on taking action. If the Metropolitan Toronto Police were a business they would be sued into oblivion over just the last year’s worth of horrendous behaviour. Yes there are good cop stories but this is about the gestapo we have come to believe has been serving and protecting us. I was at the bathhouse raid ‘apology’ and anyone else who was there should be deeply offended by both the presentation of the circuit party style event to the delivery of the most insulting non-apology I have ever heard. Who are you people and why aren’t any LGBT cops standing up in disgust?

Mathieu please stand tall and support BLM, the police and the community in a long overdue dialogue. We need you to fight for us more than we need a parade that reinforces Pride Toronto’s irrelevance as a leadership organization.

Raymond Helkio, The Reading Salon