By Nicki Ward
Photos by Michael Toledano
This weekend, after years of fighting for the right to be seen and heard, thousands of people took to Yonge St. in the largest Trans March of all time. This wasn’t the largest Trans March in Canada—this was the largest Trans March in the world. Ever.
In every meaningful sense, June 28th, 2013 was a watershed moment in Trans history. So, why has almost no one heard anything about it?
The answer is Pride. Not the biblical kind of pride, but rather the corporatized, heavily branded “McPride” that is the reality of modern, gay-for-pay, event planners.
It should astonish everyone (except trans people, who are used to this kind of thing) that the Trans March receives zero financial support from Pride Toronto Inc. No money, no media support, no logistical support, no water for marchers. Nothing.
The fact that one of the wealthiest members of InterPride / WorldPride contributes absolutely nothing to this community is disgraceful. However, not only have they failed to contribute, they have actively set up barriers (literal and figurative) to prevent marches from happening.
Community members had been asking for support for years, but had been dismissed with bureaucratic excuses from Pride Festival officials who claimed that “The city won’t give a permit”, “the timing isn’t right”, or that “the police won’t allow it.”
In 2009, local activists who were tired of this figurative blockade decided to assemble at the top of Church St. and walk a few hundred yards South towards Wellesley St—the heart of Toronto’s “Gay Village.” As we assembled, several “safety officers” representing the Pride Festival attempted to panic the Trans marchers by claiming the demonstration was “illegal.” After further discussion, they claimed that they had “brokered a compromise” and that we were allowed to march… down the sidewalk.
However, we were also told that we would have to stop the march at Wellesley St. because Pride Festival officials had placed a 50-foot wide metal barricade blocking the entrance to the Gay Village.
Understandably, marchers felt outraged. To have the entrance to our “heartland” blocked by a Pride Festival, which claimed to support us, was beyond betrayal. We took to the streets, we marched, we blocked traffic, and we pushed through those barriers.
Every year since then, the march has struggled on. And every year since, Pride Festival officials have failed to provide financial support and have engaged in obstructive practices. In 2010, they used “cattle gates” to attempt to funnel marchers into a beer-garden. In 2011, they used cisgendered volunteers to misdirect marchers. In 2012, they pushed marchers through market stalls that were still under construction. This is just a short list of the kind of tactics used.
In 2013, Pride Festival officials, yet again, claimed that the City of Toronto had objected to the March. When community organizers disproved this and obtained a “Notice to Demonstrate,” Pride Festival officials claimed that the march wasn’t “legal” or “safe.” They sent out misinformation as to the route, the start time, and even went so far as to print thousands of copies of a route map that showed the march (incorrectly) ending up in one of their beer gardens.
And despite all of this, on June 28th 2013, the trans community self-organized the largest march of its kind in the world.
This puts Pride Toronto Inc. in a very difficult position. Their fund-raising activities rely heavily on the claim that they support things like the Trans March. A claim that is demonstrably not true.
Perhaps this explains why Pride Festival Organizers are tongue-tied when it comes to gushing about this moment in Trans history. But ultimately the accomplishments of this past weekend have superseded Pride’s constant aversion to the Trans March, even if it’s a temporary win.