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Pride Toronto in hiding after spirited denunciation from queer leaders

Pride Toronto in hiding after spirited denunciation from queer leaders

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No one takes giant shame placard from former honorees
Armed with an oversized cardboard shame award, a group of queers trying to give back their trophies ran into a problem on June 7: the offices of Pride Toronto (PT) were locked.

As one, two and eventually three police cruisers showed up, it became increasingly clear than no one from PT was going to accept the giant shame certificate nor the statuettes from former grand marshals, honoured dykes and other honorees.

A police officer on hand said that no one was inside the building but that someone from PT had alerted police to the protest on Sunday, apparently out of fear it would lead to vandalism.

After PT announced that its board had voted 4-3 to ban the term “Israeli Apartheid” from the parade, queer community leaders mobilized to pressure PT’s board to reverse its decision. First, Alan Li refused to accept the title of grand marshal, then Jane Farrow declined the honoured dyke title. Since then, both Michelle Walker (community service award) and ILGA (international marshals) have turned down honours.

During the press conference, PT issued a statement on its website, saying the decision to ban the term "Israeli Apartheid" was not taken lightly.

"The board of Pride Toronto listened to members of our community," it said. "What we heard overwhelmingly was that the use of the words 'Israeli Apartheid' made participants feel unsafe."

Tim McCaskell, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), spoke to Xtra after PT's release.

"If people feel unsafe, I would suggest that they are being manipulated," he said. "If the word is 'uncomfortable,' well, Pride makes a lot of people uncomfortable."

An hour earlier, you could have heard a pin drop when James Loney approached the podium at the 519 Community Centre, where more than 100 queers gathered for a press conference before marching on the PT office.

Loney — a peace activist who spent four months as a hostage in Iraq — was one of nearly two dozen PT honorees    giving back their awards.

“Us queers know it in our bones: silence equals death,” Loney said, as he discussed how silence affected him and his partner following his abduction.

Watch video of the press conference:




Loney was joined by Farrow, Walker and a raft of others who spoke against PT. On hand were:

James Loney (“Fearless” Theme Award, 2006)
Zahra Dhanani (Honoured Dyke, 2006)
Sky Gilbert (Grand Marshal, 2000)
Faith Nolan (Honoured Dyke, 2009)
El-Farouk Khaki (Grand Marshal, 2009)
Rachel Epstein (Honoured Dyke, 2007)
Gareth Henry (International Grand Marshal, 2008)
Anna Willats (Honoured Dyke, 2008)
JP Hornick (Grand Marshal, 2002)
John Greyson (Arts & Culture Award, 2009)
Savoy Howe (Award for Excellence in Sports, 2008)
Leonardo Zuniga (Human Rights Award, 2009)
Matthew Cutler (Youth Award, 2009)
Michelle Walker (Community Service Award, 2010)
Jane Farrow (Honoured Dyke, 2010)

Six others were to return their awards but couldn’t attend in person:

Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini (International Grand Marshals, 2010)
Faisal Alam (Spirituality Award, 2009)
Victor Mukasa (International Grand Marshal, 2009)
Salah Bachir (Grand Marshal, 2005)
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera (International Grand Marshal, 2007)
Alan Li (Grand Marshal, 2010)

Discontent with PT went beyond its banning of “Israeli Apartheid,” as speaker after speaker drew links between the act of censorship and other moves to whitewash the celebrations.

Farrow pointed out that performers on all PT stages must sign an agreement promising not to say anything offensive or political. Farrow says the clause, which has been in effect since 2008, was defended by PT organizers as preventing musicians from endorsing, for instance, mayoral candidates.

“This is not speech that anyone needs to be protected from,” she said.

JP Hornick, one of the women charged in the Pussy Palace raids, decried the de-sexing and de-politicizing of Pride.

“This is not a parade; it’s a march. It’s about sex. It’s about who we fuck,” she said.

Anna Willats, Pride Toronto's honoured dyke in 2008, told the boisterous room that queers need to take back Pride “if we want to put on a World Pride [in 2014] that doesn’t look like the Santa Claus Parade.”

Performer, playwright and provocateur Sky Gilbert remembered his experience of being told not to perform sex acts on his float in the late ’90s, after he gave head to a dyke’s strap-on dildo the year before.

He also defended PT executive director Tracey Sandilands — sort of.

“I’m sure that she’s a nice person. I suspect that she’s maybe a nice person. Tracey Sandilands is the new face of corporate Pride, but she’s just doing her job,” he said, adding that political queers have allowed Pride to become a sanitized spectacle.

Musician Faith Nolan says that she’s been following as alternative Pride events spring up. She was invited to perform at one — apparently to be held at the Gladstone — which was to be a non-political show of unity that didn’t choose sides between PT and QuAIA.

“I looked at it and I emailed them back and said, 'Absolutely not,’” adding, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Groups will outline plans for alternative Pride celebrations at a community meeting at The 519 tonight (Monday, June 7), at 6:30pm. The proceedings will be streamed at xtra.ca. (UPDATE: Watch our recording below. First chunk missing due to internet connection issues at the event — our apologies!)





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Comments

muzzle
Just so you know how anti censorship Savoy Howe is: she had a comment i posted on the articles about her in insidetoronto.com deleted.... if i tell anyone the truth about her and hers and the way they have harassed me for three years and discriminated against me for having PTSD as a result of violence against women and children, she has them removed, and tries to muzzle me up. Anti oppressive? feminist? my butt. I guess she is all about free speech when there is a media spotlight up her butt, but in reality she is a total bigot, and oppressor. Ego maniac... google yourself much? wow.If you cared about the people you claim to want to "help" as much as you cared about what others might think of you you may actually be effective in what it is you claim you stand for.
The basic facts on Pride and QuAIA
Let us always return to the basic facts. The two primary requirements for participation in Pride are to be: (1.) part or supportive of the LGBT community; and, (2.) law-abiding. Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) meets both of these requirements. Singling out one group that meets the requirements and banning its lawful political speech is censorship.
Salt of the earth
I guess we do not want to hear from informed white people that might know a thing or two about the Middle East but only the "real people" that can see it from their window like Sarah Palin, the ones that do not want to have gays around their children, the ones that think marriage should be only between a man and a woman and that a war in Israel is goning to make Jesus come back, the ones that think Pride is a minstrel show to ridicule with their buddies and condemn in church gatherings. You know real people!! We can all play at stereotyping. To say that working class canadians are incapable of complex views is as offensive as relinquishing critical thinking to academic types. Why not allow everybody to participate and allow each to speak his/her mind within the confines of the law?
Israel is an Apartheid State - A Scientific Study
Call it what it is. It might make people feel uncomfortable and it should, apartheid is an ugly ugly thing.

This document compares the practices in South Africa to those in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it . All aspects of Apartheid are covered including Denial of the Right to Freedom of Movement, Denial of the Right to Freedom of Residence, Right to Leave and Return to their Country, Denial of the Right to a Nationality, Creation of Separate Reserves and Ghettoes, Prohibition of Mixed Marriages etc etc etc...
The study was prepared by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa
http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Document-3202.phtml
Address class
A missing element from this discussion has been the centrality and arrogance of class. Walcott, Flanders, McCaskell, Khaki, Dhanani - all people of significant educational privilege and status, and all talking down to those who do not share or who reject their politically complex views. Many working class people don't share their critical theory perspectives which puts everything into one large meta-narrative of oppression, state censorship and race. Their comments have not tended to persuade, but to scold. Not everyone who does not understand their apparently disproportionate focus on Israel while gays hang in Iran is part of some Zionist conspiracy. I'm tired of their OISE/York U finger wagging. How about hearing from some people who labour and scrape by and who just want to enjoy the weekend without feeling they're somehow implicated in geopolitics? That Dhanani especially is obsessed with blaming white people for everything, despite a pretty diverse Pride committee who made this decision and a pretty white middle class grad school QuAIA.
@Shane
Which word in "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" is offensive to any religion?
And if a group was named Queers Against Iranian Homophobia would they be banned?
actually...
The name of the group damns a people and a religion, hence the uproar. If Queers Against Israeli Apartheid mean something else, they should change their name.
Pride Toronto deserving of Shame Award
as a gay man i applaud the past recipients of Pride Awards returning them.

May i remind those on the board whence they came. For 30 years pride has been a radical idea – it has offended Canadians of all stripes just for existing. Participants have not been shy about their identities, proclivities or politics – indeed they are revelled and celebrated in it of all glory.

When corporate and government pressures that certain political thoughts are forbidden – Pride Toronto should have told them to take a flying leap! But no – they couch their censorship in weasel words of a press release.

People unsafe? Bah! Offended perhaps – but not unsafe! Free speech is about being able to say things that offend. People were offended by Pride from its inception and are to this day. Just look at the letters to the editor of any small town in North America trying to organize a pride event in 2010.

Have we become so complacent in the rights we have achieved in the last few years we have abandon the goal of social justice and turned it into one large beer garden and rainbow flag souvenir stand? When you remove the struggle for human rights – everyone’s human rights – you remove what gives us pride. That we survived the years of jeers and taunts and gay bashings. Are we not to criticize Malawi for its treatment of gay couples? Iran?

The world’s condemnation of the state of Israel’s domestic policies is valid. Those who see the Israeli government’s policy toward the Palestinian people and label it apartheid may be extreme to some, it may be offensive to others but the right to call is whatever they wish – how they see it - is also valid. They are criticizing a state government – not a religion and not a people.

Shame on Pride Toronto for corporate greed
Tracey's memo isignorant; return to spirit of prid
Tracey's S's memo is shockingly ignorant, simple-minded and full of half truths and outright lies.She is seriously out of touch with the LGBT community and most of its grass roots leadership. It is all very sad. Funnily she says only "one percent" of community are for free speech--"one percenters" are what criminal bikers (eg Hells angels) call themselves (the one percent who forsake society's rules...) This ED has to go and fast. And numerous and loud activities to protest need to be organized. The good news is that the Pride Coalition for Free Speech is doing just that--organizing actions and protests agaisnt this perverse regime running Pride refleby cted their ban on free speech.

Let's now mobilize and work with all our hearts and bodies against this stupidity and return to the true spirit of Pride!

james Dubro
Note to everyone
Rick your blog is not a source

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