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Splitsville: Queers launch alternatives to official Pride Toronto events

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Splitsville: Queers launch alternatives to official Pride Toronto events

Sasha Van Bon Bon organizes event to directly compete with official Dyke March
The seams are beginning to unravel as queers — angry about Pride Toronto's decision to ban the term "Israeli Apartheid" — begin to organize a parallel program of events.

Sasha Van Bon Bon, sex advice columnist and leader of burlesque group the Scandelles, and fellow activist Jess Dobkin are skipping the Dyke March on Saturday, July 3rd in favour of leading the Take Back the Dyke March. It's a protest against Pride Toronto and its decision to censor the messaging in the parade of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).

"I cannot do that Dyke March, nor can my colleagues," says Van Bon Bon.

"I think a lot of people will be boycotting Pride the organization this year, and for good reason," says queer/trans activist Ayden Scheim. "I think it's important to instead support community-based, non-corporate events that are happening over the week."

On Monday, June 7, the newly formed Pride Coalition for Free Speech will host a community meeting at the 519 Community Centre to discuss plans for alternatives to Toronto Pride's lineup of events.

Meanwhile, the press release for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre's Queer Pride 2010 fest — billed as a community-driven "alternative to Pride" — appears to be a direct rebuke to Pride Toronto as it welcomes "communities who will not allow themselves to be censored."

But that line, says marketing director Shawn Hitchins, "was actually done before the whole apartheid rigamarole."

He says the reactions against Pride Toronto, like the Take Back the Dyke March, "are really two separate issues being compounded together. You have the Israel-Palestine issue and you have the corporate Pride issue."

"I think a lot of people have felt for a long time that it's no longer about gay pride but about vodka," Hitchins says. "Remember 10 years ago, when you'd walk down the street on Pride Day and see tons of people in ridiculous, glamorous, queer costumes? Now you walk and see people with stickers on them featuring corporate logos in rainbow colours. Fuck that!"

Bryen Dunn is working on Pride Toronto's Alterna-Queer program and laughs at how his event is now not alternative enough. He's seen these kind of protests before.

"Way back when, we tried to do the Queer West stuff — it was all about grassroots, no sponsorship," he says. "I think politics is essential to Pride — it's where it came from — but I also see that over the last 10 years, it's gone way to the other side, becoming just a big party like Caribana."

Dunn says he chose to try and work within the system as a volunteer. Activists, he says, "are putting a lot of weight on Pride, like they're expecting Pride to fight the city. I tell people who are angry that if they're so adamant, they should hold their own Pride on the original weekend, during the G20. Have an alternative Pride the weekend before and just go for it."

It's happened before, notably Will Munro's famous Vazaleen "Shame" parties. But this year, says Dunn, "might be the turning point."

For a couple of months, Toronto activists have been toying with the idea of a gay march on June 27.

"I think it's important to distinguish between Pride events and Pride Toronto events," says Scheim. "They might own that name, but they don't get to own a celebration that is bigger than the organization."

He points to the July 1 party at The Beaver, held by Original Plumbing, a US magazine for FTM trans men, as an example but also encourages people to check out Pride Toronto's Blockorama and Fruit Loopz — "events that aren't money-makers for the organization and therefore get screwed."

All this talk mystifies Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands.

"Nothing has changed with the Dyke March. A lot of this is based on misinformation," Sandilands insists. "I was contacted by Jane Farrow yesterday with the question, 'Is it true that the dykes are no longer allowed to march down Church St?' The dykes haven't marched down Church St for some years. The route this year is the same as it was in 2009 and 2008."

"They haven't asked to meet with us or contacted us in any way to tell us what their issues are with the Dyke March," Sandilands says.

"For QuAIA to have a voice in the Pride parade and Dyke March is entirely dependent on there being a Pride parade and Dyke March," says Sandilands. "We are not in a position to decide whether [QuAIA's] argument or their cause is relevant or not. I'm sure it's a very worthy cause, but our decision was not about the Israeli lobby or the Middle East crisis or freedom of expression; our decision was about saving Pride, to enable the festival to survive and continue in the way we are mandated to do."

"If we hadn't made the decision we made, there would not have been a march in which to have a voice," Sandilands insists. "Without Pride, we have nothing. We don't have a festival in which to have a voice about anything."

"When did we ever need permission?" laughs Van Bon Bon. "We can do this on our own. We're dykes! We don't need money to be proud."

The competing march has been easier to organize than a lesbian orgy, she says, and "it's really made us realize that we don't need all of that sponsorship stuff, and how it got there in the first place is the big question we need to ask ourselves. How did these people manage to take over our march, our parade? We don't need them."

Sandilands says she'd like to meet and show them otherwise, "but if they still feel after that that there's a place and purpose to hold their own alternative march, then I wish them all the best and good luck with it."

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Comments

Two Prides
Interesting point Steve. Montreal actually has three queer celebrations and other cities have more than one as well. Just read this article about the very fact Toronto's situation is not so unique, and there is room for more parties and events -

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/293173
Room for one more!
I support Toronto Pride's committee vote, it was not a simple vote. The resolution to disallow the term "Israeli Apartheid" only passed by one vote.
On the flip side of this, if any Toronto Pride spin-off celebrations were to happen -- I'd support it too. Every year we've seen Pride increase in size. The Pride guide overview of events gets longer, the map expands and we look at our watches wondering when the parade will finally be over.
At time I almost envy Montreal because they have two very similar but unique celebrations of sexuality. The first is Diverscite, followed closely by Pride. Why can't we have something like this in Toronto?
You should look...
at what areas those Councillors represent. If you think being perceived as being anti-Semitic or anti-Israel was going to be less of a problem for them than cutting funds to Pride, you shouldn't accuse others of not having a clue, Sweat Pea.
Election this year
If Pride Toronto thinks that Howard Moscoe, Joe Mihevc, Janet Davis, Shelley Carroll, and Joe Pantalone wanted to head into an election responsible for cutting funding to Pride Toronto, they really have no clue, and should be relieved of their responsibilities.
Election this year
Right. Executive Committee. I'm sure Howard Moscoe, Joe Mihevc, Janet Davis, Shelley Carroll, Joe Pantalone, and the others were really looking forward, with an election coming up this October 25, to having QuAIA be an election issue for them. And I'll bet Pride was looking forward to having all their major sponsors disappear too. I guess you must have had the Pride offices bugged to know more about it then they did. You might remember Pride board flip-flopped on this a couple of times earlier. They made the final decision to bar QuAIA because they had to in order to save Pride. There are going to be alternative events, like the one Sasha is organizing, so the loons will have their outlet too. The funniest part of all this is that QuAIA wants to boycott Israel, and QuAIA ended up being the ones getting boycotted and can't handle it.
Pride Toronto doesn't understand city hall
If Bones is a staff member of Pride Toronto, they are displaying Pride's ignorance of how city hall works. The motion put forward by a homophobic city councillor to cut Pride funding was referred to city council's executive committee, a small group of councillors who are mostly progressive and support funding for Pride, with or without QuAIA. Either Pride doesn't understand how city hall works, or they wanted to make this decision anyways and are just blaming it on right-wing homophobic councillors because they think the community is too stupid to know.
Brad fraser isn't as well informed as he thinks
Pride Lies, Brad? How about Brad doesn't know what he's talking about, but likes to proselytize. 21 Metro Councillors expressly said they would vote to defund Pride if they didn't get QuAIA out. The rest did not commit, but it would only take 3 of the remaining two dozen or so to have voted that way. Kyle Rae isn't even running for re-election, so what's his stake in being anti-QuAIA unless he genuinely feels it was going to harm Pride? Look at the Pride sponsorship page now. It's filled with major sponsors listed. I can assure you, because I checked, only 2 were there up until the point that Pride announced it would not allow participation by QuAIA. Word was those 2 were going to pull as well. And if you think sponsors like Pizza Pizza, Rogers, Zoomer Radio and the others were going to let their names be associated with an event that had participation from a group that is anti-Isreal and is widely believed to be anti-Semitic, all I can say is, let's meet up at Woody's and I'll gladly buy you a drink in exchange for some of whatever you're smoking.
A Great Idea
Sasha has the right idea here. It also proves the QuAIA issue isn't censorship, but responsible allocation of public funds and not providing them to forums that can be exploited by the hateful QuAIA. This event is not taking public money, so no one is going to try to stop QuAIA, Nazi Gays For Torturing Live Animals (NGTLA), NAMBLA, or any other fringe group from taking part. As long as it's your money and not my tax funds paying for it, you can do what you like.
Daniel, you got it wrong
QuAIA is not asking for a boycott, we, the community don't want to be part of it. Do you think Sasha got a call from QuAIA? We have all been following this and people have sought alternatives. If Pride doesn't represent me and my values I am just as happy to have a picnic with my friends.
I understand QuAIA will not boycott
From previous articles and comments, I understand that QuAIA will not boycott the Pride parade. I am not sure what options they will pursue. That is up to QuAIA. It will be interesting to see their creativity whatever it is.

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