'A lot of reflection going on': Pride Month celebrations bring back painful memories for LGBT community
Pride Toronto has been through a difficult 12 months, executive director says
Pride Month is officially underway, and for 2019, Pride Toronto will be a time of celebration — and reflection.
This year's theme is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, where violent demonstrations broke out after police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, in 1969.
Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, said the victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur and Pride Toronto's fractured relationship with the police, continue to be important issues for the organization and the broader LGBT community.
For the second consecutive year, Toronto police will not be allowed to march in uniform in the Pride Parade.
And in January, a year after his arrest sent shock and anger through Toronto, McArthur admitted to killing eight men between 2010 and 2017. The self-employed landscaper was arrested in January 2018, after years of speculation within Toronto's Gay Village that a group of men who had gone missing from the neighbourhood were somehow connected.
"There's a lot of reflection going on at the moment. Last year was a point of mourning ... we are now commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall," Nuamah told CBC Toronto.
Nuamah added that to some extent, the Stonewall incident is symbolized in what happened when McArthur pleaded guilty to serial murder.
"A part of the reason Stonewall is so important is because Stonewall was the first time the LGBTQ2+ community said we want to be treated equally and we also want equal protection, not only under the law but in the way those laws are policed," Nuamah said.
"In 2019 ... we're celebrating 50 years of what should be equality but what in fact continues to be an ongoing struggle for LGBTQ2+ rights as symbolized in Bruce McArthur and his decade-long serial murder spree."
A difficult 12 months for Pride Toronto
The Pride Toronto executive director said the organization has been through a difficult 12 months, but also noted that it received overwhelming support from Toronto and the wider Canadian community.
"We had a financial crisis but we've also clearly spoken of our crisis in confidence in policing in the city," Nuamah said.
"For us to take such a position and to continue to have politicians, corporations, those organizations that fund us, to continue to support us through these difficult times is a demonstration of the commitment of this city and this country to Pride Toronto. We are blessed to have so many good and close working relationships."
Toronto LGBT leader Nicki Ward agrees with Nuamah that the past years have been difficult for the LGBT community.
But the director of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association said Pride Month is a time to celebrate.
"Pride has always been about being loud and proud, present in the community and not hiding, and this year is no different," Ward told CBC Toronto.
"As a community we're used to tragedy and we've experienced, I think, more than our fair share recently with the missing persons and the murders of those persons.
"I think the community as a whole and Toronto as a whole has responded with all the humanity that we expect from Torontonians," Ward added.
For Pride Toronto ambassador Miss Fiercealicious, Pride Month is a time to highlight the talents of members of the LGBTQ2+ community.
"For me Pride is all about celebrating life, celebrating yourself, being proud of yourself, and expressing that; not being afraid to show that to the world," the pride ambassador said.
"It's really important to appreciate the local talent that we have here because there are so many artists that don't have the visibility that they should. They're really talented. We put a lot of work into the stuff that we do because we love our craft and it's nice when it's appreciated."
Pride Month — a month-long celebration of diversity and inclusion — will culminate with the Pride Parade on June 23.
With files from Ramna Shahzad