In Photos: The 2018 Toronto Pride Parade

In Photos: The 2018 Toronto Pride Parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A love letter to Pride

A reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still more that needs to be done

A love letter to Pride

There are few places where one can strip themselves of any veil and express the unadulterated version of themself. Throughout the years, Pride has become one of these safe havens.

Pride highlights the LGBTQ+ community in all of its glory. The carnivalesque themes and harlequin atmosphere project and celebrate the years spent hiding from oppression and fighting for basic rights the right to love, to express, and to simply be.

LGBTQ+ individuals fight, whether in public or private, to be a part of the fabric that creates and connects societies worldwide. Pride allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to defend their feelings, protect their right to resist social stigma, and promote the rich diversity that defines the community.

There is a fearlessness to Pride, backed by a history infused with tenacity and courage, that leaves me in awe. June 16, 2017 was the first time I attended the Pride parade. People of every age, shape, and ethnicity filled the streets. The crowd was as polychromatic as the flags that they carried, and the atmosphere was filled with glitter and charged with ecstasy.

Amidst the bombastic music and vivid rainbows, all I saw was the unreserved emotion — the wide smiles that make eyes gleam, and the tears running down faces, filled with nostalgia and joy.  Coming from a country like Pakistan, where many aspects of society are censored, I had never had the privilege of experiencing something like this before.

I have always been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, possibly even before I understood how sexuality and gender are constructed in our world, but in those moments at Pride, a newfound appreciation for the movement grew in me.

The spectacle of ‘come as you are’ is terrifying for most people, myself included. We fall into a façade that we feel will be accepted, rather than letting the world adjust to accommodate, or simply accept, us.

Although I have experienced discrimination as a Muslim woman of colour, I also identify as cisgender. I cannot claim to completely understand the struggle of being constantly mislabeled by heteronormative culture, as I have never had to justify who I’m attracted to or the identity that I adopt.

But as I marched alongside all the supporters who had come out to celebrate Pride, I realized that this community has every right to be heard. A flicker of hope sparked in my heart that one day people in my country could do the same.

Freedom of expression is a relative term in Pakistan, but so are all the other freedoms that we take for granted in the West. Pakistan is a country submerged in years of turmoil and deluded by biased religiosity. There is a lack of free will, despite citizens being charming and humble. Even social activists are often afraid to advocate for the inclusivity of various sexualities, genders, and identities.

The monochromatic city walls retain the stories of people who are desperate, but afraid, to be themselves without discrimination. I have seen my friends struggle because we come from a society laced with conservatism, which leaves them unable to live their truths.

Narrow-mindedness bred through education paves a predetermined path for every generation, before its members even realize who they are or who they love. People have to think twice before touching, and the simple act of interlocking fingers turns into hushed shadows. They begin to live in the darkness — secretly existing, but never really seen. Where I am from, this is all too often the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community.

Standing at Pride, I wanted more for my country. I wanted ruffled feathers, ostentatious costumes, hopeful slogans, and liberation. It was all right in front of me people reveling in the light as they walked through the streets of Toronto.

For me, that felt like the importance of Pride. It is not just a celebration, but a remembrance of the journey that led to these moments and the road moving forward. That is, a road for further inclusivity that dispels the latent bigotry and gives rise to equity.

While the West has made strides, there is still a vast amount of LGBTQ+ culture that needs to be taught and mainstreamed. It goes beyond a day or a month — paradigms need to be shifted worldwide.

The LGBTQ+ community has always faced adversity with love and resilience, from Stonewall to the fight for transgender rights. Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community keep marching to retain the rights given to them, with the hope that we can spark change in a countries where these rights do not yet exist.

This year, Pride encompassed not only the vibrant festivities, but also highlighted the violence that has recently struck the community. Pride serves as a reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still so much that needs to be done.

Rather than touting what I have done for the LGBTQ+ community which is little in comparison to what the community has taught me this is my love letter to Pride.  

U of T students’ guide to 2018 Pride

How to join the parade with U of T student groups

U of T students’ guide to 2018 Pride

In celebration of Pride Month and in preparation for the Pride Parade on June 24, several student groups at U of T are holding events on campus that students are encouraged to attend.

Ahead of the Pride Parade, student group Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT) will be hosting a Pride Float Decorating Party. Students are encouraged to bring any kind of arts and crafts material to help design the float. The decorating party will take place on June 23, from 5:30–8:30 pm, in room 523 of Wilson Hall.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is holding a Pride Picnic on June 24 at 10:00 am in Hart House Circle. During the event, the Architecture and Visual Studies Students Union will be joining to host a pancake breakfast, followed by face painting, t-shirt decorating, and snacks.

Other Pride Toronto events that U of T groups are participating in include the Trans March on June 22, the Pride & Remembrance Run and the Dyke March on June 23, and, of course, the Pride Parade on the afternoon of June 24.

All students are encouraged to attend the parade and march with the U of T affiliated groups. The Sexual and Gender Diversity Office (SGDO) and LGBTOUT will be meeting students at 3:15 pm on Bloor Street and Ted Rogers Way in the “J 18” section. For students who missed out on the SGDO’s Pride T-shirt Painting Party, extra t-shirts will be available on the day of the parade. All students are encouraged to march with them, either on the float or beside it.

The Faculty of Engineering will also have a float in the parade and encourages all engineering students to join them. While the UTSU does not have a float this year, it will still be marching in the parade and invites students to meet them at 2:00 pm on the front lawn.

Students are asked to bring plenty of sunscreen and water, and wear comfortable footwear to the parade.

Contested celebrations

How large-scale national festivities like Pride Month and Canada 150 use and abuse Canadian nationalism

Contested celebrations

The celebrations of Pride Month and Canada 150 that took place over the summer may have appealed to the majority of Canadians who do not experience exclusion or erasure, but such celebrations promote a parochial form of Canadian exceptionalism that distorts history and marginalizes identities that should be central to the celebration of queerness and this land.

Pride Month in Toronto in its current form distorts its history of radical political resistance, and thereby it does a particular disservice to queer and trans people of colour. For Indigenous peoples, Canada 150 represents an erasure of thousands of years of human existence and the adverse impacts of colonization. Taken together, these celebrations uphold a Canadian brand of ‘progressiveness’ that enable institutions of power to appear legitimate, and a majority of Canadians to remain complacent toward a version of history that remains contested by the people that continue to be marginalized in Canadian society.

Until recently, Pride Month happily welcomed the Toronto Police Service’s participation in the Pride parade, disregarding both ongoing police violence toward racialized LGBTQ+ persons and the parade’s historical roots. The history of police violence toward queer and trans people of colour, captured in the Stonewall riots in America and Operation Soap in Canada, is what shaped Pride as a site for political resistance against institutions of power. As expressed by Black Lives Matter TO (BLMTO) co-founder Rodney Diverlus at Toronto Pride this year, “Pride is actually ours. Queer and trans people of colour actually started this.”

Last summer, BLMTO staged a sit-in protest at the Pride Month parade to challenge its anti-Blackness and demanded that police floats be removed from the parade. BLMTO was then accused of being divisive and exclusive. Such a reaction reflects a general attitude toward Black activism, in which any call for racial justice spawns discomfort in Canadians. After all, to challenge the police force, an agent of the state, is to challenge the image of the Canadian state itself.

Because BLMTO’s demands have since been accepted and incorporated by Pride Toronto, the not-for-profit organizers of Pride Month have faced threats of funding withdrawal from some members of the Toronto City Council. Clearly, Pride Toronto’s resistance to the oppression of the LGBTQ+ community does not necessarily account for those who are racialized within that very community.

For those who condemn colonization, Canada 150 is an anniversary to resist, not to celebrate. The anniversary has been condemned by Indigenous voices because, alongside celebrating the consolidation of the Canadian settler state, it also represents the violation of Indigenous self-determination — a violation that has been ongoing for centuries.

In today’s era of ‘reconciliation,’ Indigenous peoples remain critical of the work yet to be done. The federal government spent nearly half a billion dollars on Canada 150 celebrations — the kind of investment that is needed for Indigenous education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Given injustices like the residential schools system, environmental poisoning of Indigenous lands, and missing and murdered Indigenous women, there is little reason to celebrate the nationalist narrative from the perspective of the colonized.

Meanwhile, the Liberals continue to betray Indigenous communities’ needs. The government’s commitment to anti-Indigenous pipeline projects and its failure to amend the Indian Act to eliminate all gender-based discrimination against Indigenous women are just two examples of how reconciliation efforts have failed.  

The problems with Pride Month intersect ongoing colonialism against Indigenous peoples. For instance, two-spirit folks, having endured a history of colonization, face under-representation at Pride Month. The wide cultural variety of sexualities and genders independent of western political history are not confinable to the LGBT category that remains at the heart of Canadian national identity.

The ultimate purpose of these events is to promote the image of Canada as a progressive and welcoming country, thereby feeding nationalist sentiments. Nationalism in general is a problematic phenomenon because it necessarily excludes in order to determine who belongs. Insofar as celebrations like Pride Month and Canada 150 capitalize on marginalization and identity, they disingenuously obscure the truth.

This is hardly the first time the concept of identity in Canada has been twisted for political purposes. Despite the image of diversity and multiculturalism Canada projects to the world, it has a history of treating migrants inhumanely — alongside oppression of Indigenous sovereignty, the migrant history of this land includes dark events such as the Chinese head tax, internment camps for Japanese Canadians, and refusal to accept Jewish refugees during World War II.

While this history of Canadian racism is seldom acknowledged in conversations about national identity, LGBTQ+ identity is instrumentalized via nationalism to serve the interests of institutions of power. Aside from the Toronto Police’s attempt to co-opt Pride Month, corporate structures like Gap and TD Bank have commercialized Pride Month through ‘pinkwashing,’ a practice that promotes a pro-diversity image and appeals to modern consumer preference to generate profit while distracting the public from unethical practices.

Internationally, the Canadian government has used LGBTQ+ identity to advance its construction of Canadian modernity on the world stage. Whether it be through Canada’s condemnation of Russian homophobia during the 2014 Sochi Olympics or Justin Trudeau’s conspicuous participation in Pride Month, the Canadian state uses Pride Month as a global platform to construct itself as a uniquely ‘progressive’ leader amid a less civilized world.

Canada 150, too, is a site for corporations to reinforce a celebratory Canadian identity as a profitable brand. Tim Hortons’ Canada 150 edition of Roll up the Rim reduces Canadian identity to a consumer culture that presumes the existence of diversity and equality. Both LGBTQ+ and Canadian national identity require complicity to institutions and common cultural beliefs about Canada. To this end, the narratives of racialized people, who experience exclusion and demand radical change, are intentionally left on the margins.

Together, Pride Month and Canada 150 produce a narrative about modern Canadian nationalism that is exploited by institutions of power. However, the radical history of queer identity and Indigenous experiences of settler colonialism offer alternative narratives that challenge those institutions of power. If we are truly committed to progressivism and diversity, we ought to postpone celebration and pay more attention to those who have yet to experience the emancipation promised by this country.

 

Ibnul Chowdhury is a third-year student at Trinity College studying Economics and Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies.

Blackness under scrutiny

Amid disappointing portrayals of Black Lives Matter, the Canadian media must do more to advocate for racial justice

Blackness under scrutiny

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once warned of an unsuspecting threat to Black liberation called “the white moderate.” He defined white moderates as people who prefer the “absence of tension” over the “presence of justice” and say, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.” The white moderate “paternalistically believes that he can set the timeline for another man’s freedom.”

If Black Lives Matter (BLM) is today’s civil rights group, then Canadian media is the white moderate at best and an antagonist at worst. This has become strikingly evident, given the outpouring of disappointing coverage in response to BLM Toronto’s (BLMTO) recent sit-in at Toronto’s Pride Parade — coverage that makes a mockery of the BLM movement, while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge that anti-Black racism continues to exist both in Canada and the United States.

In the Toronto Star, for instance, an editorial claimed that, while BLMTO is usually righteous, their actions at the Toronto Pride Parade went too far and stepped on the toes of allies. The activist group, an ’honoured guest’ at the parade, apparently should have opted for friendliness over confrontation, given the fact that the LGBTQ+ community are considered their allies.

Such a naive comment is symptomatic of the moderate, who supposedly understands and sympathizes with the cause of the marginalized but cannot tolerate the rage and urgency that naturally underlies it. It also ignores the fact that LGBTQ+ people can be racist as well. When reflecting on the public’s response to their sit-in, Rodney Diverlus of BLMTO tweeted that the first group of people to chant “all lives matter” —  a phrase that trivializes racism and violence against the Black community  by insisting everyone be treated equally despite unequal levels of disadvantage —  were white queer people. There is clearly still more work to be done.

As John Ibbitson wrote in the The Globe and Mail, the face of the gay rights movement has always been that of a white, middle-class man. Sexuality aside, an otherwise privileged group like this faces much less resistance in having their rights acknowledged than Black people, much less the many Black women and trans people who populate BLMTO. This reality explains why Pride can be infuriating to people of colour; at the end of the day, it still appears to be a celebration of cisgendered white men, despite the fact that monumental moments in the fight for queer rights, such as the Stonewall riots, were both initiated by people of colour and trans people.

Ibbitson’s more conscientious analysis is in stark contrast to that of his colleague Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail’s star columnist and plagiarist-in-chief. In typical Wente fashion, her piece was condescending, bereft of depth, and overall dismissive of views that challenge her own. She called BLMTO “bullies” backpacking on the racial tensions of America, as if Canadians were innocent of racial resentment. For Wente, BLMTO simply ought to have been happy they were present at Pride; she believed the group’s protest was little more than whining. She crudely labelled most of BLMTO’s demands as asking for money for their personal projects, ignoring the fact that they have consistently urged Pride to strive for greater visibility, the inclusion of South Asian and Indigenous peoples, and increased accessibility for people with disabilities.

Wente took particular offense to BLMTO’s demand for the elimination of police floats in future parades. Her view that police floats symbolize “solidarity and inclusion” ignores the fact that both Black and queer people, and especially trans people, are justifiably fearful of police, who have a history of subjecting these groups and other marginalized groups to scrutiny, harassment, and violence. With this context in mind, seeing the police occupy space on a float in a parade dedicated to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people is a taunt — and a violent one at that — for many queer people of colour.

Perhaps the most insulting part of Wente’s column is that she claimed Toronto is so much better for Black and queer people than other places in the world, consequently insinuating that Black and queer people should be grateful to only have to experience the lesser of two evils.

Nathan Chan/THE VARSITY

Nathan Chan/THE VARSITY

Similar sentiments were penned in the National Post, when Robyn Urback — despite acknowledging race as a factor in the pushback against BLMTO — wrote that Pride was an example of the political left “eating itself,” because two groups concerned with progress clashed. Holding groups that claim to be progressive to account can only be a positive thing, and BLMTO was right to expect more of Pride.

One can argue that today’s Pride, embellished with corporate sponsors, pinkwashing, and shallow support, is now more a celebration of past achievements than an event seriously concerned with marching further towards equity. Certainly, considering the backlash to BLMTO, the parade is a far cry from its political roots, meant to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which were initiated in protest against police brutality and led by queer and trans people of colour.

The media’s less-than-savoury takes on BLMTO are particularly appalling considering the position from which BLMTO is speaking. Amid the frequent shooting of unarmed Black people in both the US and Canada, BLMTO’s demand to ban police floats from the parade is not surprising. It is unnerving, to say the least, to march alongside an institution that can destroy you with impunity. One need only to look at the dozens of instances of police brutality against Black people in the United States ­— Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile are just four of the Black lives that have been taken by police. Closer to home, the violence persists: consider the shooting of Andrew Loku by Toronto police, and the recent death of Abdirahman Abdi, a mentally ill man that was beaten to death by the Ottawa Police.

It is not that BLMTO’s demands or their strategies cannot be criticized. Yet, such criticism must be directed in a constructive manner, in a manner that, at the very least, acknowledges anti-Black racism and does not obscure the truth.

[pullquote-default]All marginalized groups find themselves underrepresented in journalism, and that’s a moral and a business problem.[/pullquote-default]

Fortunately, not all media perspectives on BLMTO have been so narrow-minded. While it isn’t necessary to share the identity of those one writes about, Desmond Cole, a Black writer, provided much needed context and clarity in his Toronto Star column amid a series of tone-deaf hot takes elsewhere in Canadian media. He notes how the media-manufactured Black vs. queer dichotomy erases the intersectional issues that queer Black people face — issues that arise as by-products of two overlapping marginalized identities, each with their unique lived experiences of oppression. Furthermore, Cole discusses how queer people of colour are alienated at Pride and in LGBTQ communities as a whole. Though it was not his responsibility to do so, Cole did well in explaining why BLMTO’s actions were justified, and this was a welcome contrast to many of the more dubious perspectives provided by his colleagues.

The reaction to BLMTO’s actions at Pride are symbolic of a bigger issue in Canadian media: an alarming lack of diversity. All marginalized groups find themselves underrepresented in journalism, and that’s a moral and a business problem. Identity cannot replace journalistic ability, but it can add valuable nuance and context when covering queer and racialized communities. Journalism where people are able to tell their own stories — if they choose, not because they are tokenized and pigeonholed to do so — can only be seen as a positive.

This is not to mention the fact that the media, by means of reaching a large audience, can set the stage and the standard for what kind of content constitutes legitimate, appropriate journalism. When BLM is caricaturized, but their notable achievements are not given air time, the seedy priorities of the media shine through — they paint racial justice activists as people not worth listening to, while obscuring discussions of their actual work.

Even beyond this, there are undoubtedly more overt and crass instances of racist content being published by the media. The Varsity is far from innocent of this — in 2007, for example, a blackface cartoon was published in our paper, something that we have yet to formally issue an apology for; we aim to officially amend this disgrace in the coming weeks.

Canadian media should commit to increasing diversity in newsrooms, which would increasesthe quality of journalism. Without Desmond Cole, there would only be one Black columnist in the mainstream media: Royson James of the Toronto Star. The Varsity now has a diverse masthead, but we do not entertain the notion that the mere presence of diversity will be enough to combat racism, both in terms of our workplace environment and the content that we publish going forward.

In order to work to combat racism in the media, a conversation needs to be had about the way race and racial issues are portrayed to the public, as well as the responsibility that media outlets have to tell a conscious story, not just one that makes headlines.

Black Lives Matter TO, this is your space

Removing police floats from the parade is crucial to creating an inclusive Pride

Black Lives Matter TO, this is your space

“Everyone in this space, sit down,” said Alexandria Williams, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto. “This is your space.”

This year’s Toronto Pride parade was halted by a sit-in protest organized by Black Lives Matter TO. Citing Pride Toronto’s erasure of Black infrastructure, the group made the following demands: full funding for community stages — including the reinstatement of the South Asian Stage — continued space and logistical support for Black Queer Youth, and prioritizing the hiring of Black trans women and Indigenous peoples at Pride Toronto.

Of these demands, the most controversial was the call for the removal of all police floats from the parade. Sparking various reactions from members of the LGBTQ+ community and police officers themselves, many claim that such a demand represents the exclusion of police officers from Pride, and that the protest as a whole was disrespectful to the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite these criticisms, Pride should be an open space for everyone to express their personal identities. Black Lives Matter deserves a space in Pride and should be prioritized over police officers.

The Toronto Star recently published an open letter from Chuck Krangle, an openly gay police officer, expressing his feelings of exclusion. In his letter, Krangle wrote about dealing with the fear of persecution, coming-out, and attending the Pride parade for the first time in 2016 with the support of his co-workers. He outlined the experiences of LGBTQ+ police officers, and their struggle to gain a workplace free of discrimination and bias.

“Members of police services, and their employers […] have just as much right to participate as any other group,” wrote Krangle. “Police Officers are significantly represented in the LGBTQ community and it would be unacceptable to alienate and discriminate against them and those who support them.”

What Krangle fails to recognize in his letter is that his occupation is a choice. He can still attend Pride without his badge and uniform. Blackness, on the other hand, is not a choice and cannot be shed in the same manner as a uniform.

Pride itself originated as a riot led by trans women of colour in response to the police raid of the Stonewall Inn. At the time, it was suspected that the New York Police Department was specifically targeting gay clubs. Because Pride originated as a movement of resistance against oppressive police force, it is antithetical for police to have floats in the parade, as Pride Toronto should respect both the history of Pride and the individuals who made Pride possible.

Despite the representation of Black and queer-identifying police officers within the force, as well as those who do not perpetuate violence against minorities, the very presence of police continues to incite fear in racialized minorities. It is crucial, therefore, that we recognize the institution of the police force as a symbol of oppression; members of racialized minorities continue to be murdered and harassed at the hands of police. For example, shortly after the Black Lives Matter protest in Toronto, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were both killed by police officers in the United States.

[pullquote-default]Because Pride originated as a movement of resistance against oppressive police force, it is antithetical for police to have floats in the parade, as Pride Toronto should respect both the history of Pride and the individuals who made Pride possible.[/pullquote-default]

It is not the case that police officers should be excluded from Pride entirely. If police officers are to participate in Pride in any capacity, they should fulfill the role of promoting public safety — something that many marginalized communities have been deprived of.

Instead of marching in the parade, the police should take actions such as protecting attendees from hate crimes, preventing hate groups from entering the vicinity of Pride events, and monitoring public transit routes leading to and from the parade to ensure the safety of individuals travelling outside the boundaries of Yonge Street. Police participation in Pride should prioritize the protection of queer people — especially those of colour — instead of taking up their space.

The reception of Black Lives Matter at Pride was far from welcoming. “Don’t boo,” Alexandria Williams said in response to spectators of the sit-in. “[This is] the only time I have ever heard this from a community who should understand what it feels like to be oppressed.”

[pullquote-features]Pride belongs to Black Lives Matter more than it does to the region’s police officers.[/pullquote-features]

Members of the LGBTQ+ community opposed to Black Lives Matter’s actions should seek to understand the position of the black community, especially since both have faced similar systemic oppression at the hands of police. They should also recognize that Black Lives Matter is an intrinsic part of Pride. A common misconception — one that Williams challenges when she tells the protestors that Pride is their space — is that Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community are two completely separate entities. This assumption oversimplifies and ignores the numerous intersections of class, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity that make up the LGBTQ+ community — all of which should be recognized by Pride Toronto.

Pride belongs to Black Lives Matter more than it does to the region’s police officers. We must not condemn the actions of Black Lives Matter, but instead we must condemn the violent actions perpetrated by the police against people of colour. It is the systemic violence against black people that forces Black Lives Matter to protest, halt the parade, and make demands that would lead to inclusion and safer spaces for numerous marginalized communities. For these reasons, the removal of police floats is crucial to creating an inclusive Pride.

Avneet Sharma is a second-year student at Trinity College studying English and Book and Media Studies.

Pride within the practice

LGBTQ+ inclusivity is becoming a part of the corporate world

Pride within the practice

Growing up in the closet was not easy. It caused me to over-analyze every word that came out of my mouth, in fear that someone might figure out my identity. This constant worrying took a lot of time and energy, which could have been put towards more productive tasks.

A person is at their best when they are comfortable being who they truly are. For me, this was nearly impossible when I was hyper-aware of every single thing that I did and how others might perceive me. I later came out and hesitantly decided on a university and career path: business. I knew I could do well in this field but was concerned about how my personal life would mesh into what I thought would be an ‘old boys’ club.’

Fortunately, attending my first corporate event back in high school made me realize I had made the right choice. I listened to representatives from the industry speak about the importance their respective firms placed upon diversity and inclusion in the workplace, specifically in regards to LGBTQ+ employees. It gave me the confidence to be proud of who I am and feel comfortable about my university and future career choices.

[pullquote-default]Today, massive firms go out of their way to make sure they have as diverse of a workforce as possible and that inclusion practices are in place to support their employees.[/pullquote-default]

Corporations are often painted in a very negative light, which unfortunately diminishes all the philanthropic work they do. Yes, banks used to be an old boys’ club, but that is not the case anymore; over time, things have changed for the better. Today, massive firms go out of their way to make sure they have as diverse of a workforce as possible and that inclusion practices are in place to support their employees.

Attending the Canadian Board Diversity Council’s Annual Report Card Launch, I was able to see the manner in which some of the largest corporations have dedicated themselves to diversity. Over the past 10 years, we can observe a clear trend in favour of diversity with respect to these boards of directors. There has been almost 10 per cent more women on these boards and even more in specific industries. Additionally, the per cent of self-identifying minorities on boards has tripled. This is pretty clear evidence that leadership is changing for the better.

Fortunately, along the same lines, support for the LGBTQ+ community has also been flourishing within the corporate world. While there has been a lot of work done over the past 16 years, corporations like Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) have been allies to the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Back in 1994, before same-sex marriage was even legal in Canada, TD extended its employee benefits to same-sex couples. Today, they are one of the leading sponsors of Pride Weeks around the world and one of the community’s most active allies.

On a broader institutional level, support is also growing. With organizations like the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Pride at Work Canada, Canadian Board Diversity Council, and Out On Bay Street, careers in finance, accounting, consulting, human resources, law, energy, engineering, plus more are becoming more accessible for LGBTQ+ people. These organizations provide opportunities for individuals in the community to network with industry professionals, get career advice, and find jobs.

These organizations also provide support to their corporate partners. They oversee training, improve working conditions, and help senior leaders implement more diverse practices that can help all employees feel more comfortable being their authentic selves at work.

The Williams Institute, a group of scholars dedicated to researching the social and economic implications of sexual orientation and gender identity, released a poignant study on this very topic in 2013. They claim that pro-diversity and the implementation of supportive LGBTQ+ policies have had a positive effect on job satisfaction, work relationships, and productivity. As part of its recommendations, the study emphasized the importance of hiring more bisexual and transgender employees. It will be interesting to take a look at the studies in a few years and see the changes in demographics.

While the future of my career remains uncertain, one thing rings true: I will be in the employee resource group of my workplace, fighting to make sure all that has been done over the past few decades is taken further and further.

I will be comfortable bearing my Pride flag at whatever company I want. In comparison to three years ago when I was too terrified to speak, I am astounded by how much I have personally — and professionally — grown.

Troy Peschke is a third-year student at Innis College studying Finance and Economics. He is the Director of Corporate Relations for the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance.

U of T, Toronto stand with Orlando

Hundreds gather to commemorate Pulse nightclub shooting victims

U of T, Toronto stand with Orlando

Pride Month celebrations were interrupted in the wake of the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida at the Pulse nightclub. A gunman opened fire on the crowd; 49 people were killed and 53 were injured.

Several commemorative ceremonies took place in Toronto, including three at the University of Toronto. U of T’s Sexual & Gender Diversity Office organized a commemoration at Hart House Circle, while the Equity and Diversity Office hosted a memorial at UTSC’s The Meeting Place.

LGBTOUT and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS) held a vigil at King’s College Circle, where Julian Oliveira, member of LGBTOUT and organizer for the vigil, expressed his feelings about the tragedy: “The club was populated by queer and trans and Latinx performers and community members who stand with the queer and racialized communities in Orlando. We are suffering this loss together.”

Oliveira continued, “The answer to queerphobia is not Islamaphobia. We should not allow people to skew our knowledge of the facts, of what is right, and we must not let ourselves be tricked. We must stand together with other oppressed communities, for we are all fighting for equality, we are all fighting for love.”

The names of each of the victims were read out loud and the microphone was offered to anyone who wished to address the crowd. Several people expressed grief and praised the community’s support. A canvas was laid out and the audience was encouraged to leave messages.

A Toronto-wide vigil was held at Barbara Hall Park the night after the shooting. Several local leaders and politicians were present to address the hundreds of attendees.

“This doesn’t represent the sentiment or the actions of any faith,” Mayor of Toronto John Tory told The Varsity. “It doesn’t represent anybody except very deranged, clearly deranged persons and we’ll learn more about it in the days to come. But here, look around us tonight and there are people that can tell you how Toronto deals with these things, which is to stand in solidarity with each other.”

Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam also addressed the crowd.

“Our social miracle as we know it in Toronto, in Ontario, in Canada can never be taken for granted,” Wong-Tam said. “And we have to let the people of the Americas know that we stand with them and that violence cannot be tolerated. And we will only ever respond to that type of violence with more love.”

Representatives from the LGBTQ community stressed the importance of community, while all shared a similar message of tolerance and understanding.

El-Farouk Khaki, community leader and Muslim-Queer activist, reminded the crowd of the involvement that the Queer-Muslim community has in Toronto.

“I come speaking for the Toronto Unity Mosque, for Universalists Muslims, and for the Salaam Queer-Muslim community: we don’t stand with you, we are you,” said Khaki. “So I stand with you as your brother, as your sibling in humanity, and I am given hope by the joy and by the unity. Unity is not sameness, but it is the celebration of our differences and our diversity.”

Toronto’s Pride celebrations are expected to continue as planned in the following weeks. “We still have to be vigilant,” said Tory. “We got to make it better, make sure it’s safe this coming month, which it will be.”