Summer is Pride season all over, sprinkled with parades and festivities. Calgary’s Pride is a bit late, not arriving until Labour Day weekend. In the meantime, I get to read about celebrations in other cities.
You know I love the Pride parade. I go every year and cry, especially when the first responders of all shapes and stripes and persuasions show their support for our community. Fire, ambulance, military types, and the beloved police all show up in full uniform.
I know that police weren’t always adored by LGTBQ people. There were the bath raids, and the arrests for what was once considered “indecent behaviour”. This bad blood kickstarted the Pride movement many moons ago.
But relations with police have improved dramatically over the years. Police come to the rescue in incidents of gay bashing or other LGTBQ hate crimes. In Calgary, a police committee meets regularly to discuss and address issues within the LGTBQ community. The committee includes police and everyday LGTBQ citizens, fostering a spirit of cooperation and support.
And so when I heard that uniformed police would be excluded from this year’s Pride parade in Toronto, I was not happy. Black Lives Matter disrupted last year’s parade with a sit in, and then pushed for the exclusion of police in uniform. Police could attend out of uniform only, they were told. Now, remember that some of these police are part of the LGTBQ community themselves. How do you think they felt about being excluded? How about all the police who believe in LGBTQ rights and have worked hard to understand the community and support it in their work?
In case you’re wondering, I think black lives matter, a lot. I understand there’s tension between African-Canadians and, moreso, African-Americans and the police, with reason. There have been deaths, some of which have been considered unprovoked and unjustified. Police have been charged with murder, and rightfully so. Sometimes police have not been charged with murder when many believe they should have been. These issues need to be addressed. But I don’t see these issues as relevant to LGTBQ Pride festivities.
Pride parades are intended for people of all sexual and gender minorities to celebrate with their supporters. Those people may be black or white or brown or green (if they drink too much, as is commonplace), young or middle-aged or old, religious or indigenous. There’s even a small Jewish LGTBQ contingent. The many groups that march, assuming they are LGTBQ-identifying groups, deserve their place in the parade.
And then there are groups that are there to march but have nothing to do with the event. They are not supporting Pride; they are pushing their own agenda unrelated to Pride. I don’t agree with these groups’ inclusion in any Pride parade. For example, I’ve seen pro-Palestinian groups march in the parade, not because they’re LGTBQ, but because they’re protesting the current situation in the Middle East. These folks certainly deserve a forum, but they don’t belong at Pride. A group of LGTBQ Palestinians would be more than welcome because they’re there to celebrate Pride.
So there, I’ve said it. Do I have a right to this opinion because I’m white? Maybe not, but I am gay, and I hope that counts for something.