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March with The Society at Pride

Happy Pride month!

June is Pride month, a time to recognize the progress made toward human rights for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

While events will be held in communities across Ontario, the biggest event is Toronto’s July 3 Pride Parade. The Society will be marching with other labour groups. Members and their families and friends are welcome to join The Society for the march. The contingent will be meeting at 1:30PM on July 3 at Bloor and Jarvis Sts. Look for Society, Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Labour Congress and Unifor flags.

Though remarkable progress has been made toward LGBT human rights, Pride month is a time to reflect on where those communities have come from and all that is left to do. Nothing reminds people more of that than the recent hate crime in Orlando, Florida, where more than 50 LGBT people were killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub.

Today, political leaders and major corporations sponsor and take part in Toronto’s Pride events but Pride was born as a protest of the oppression LGBT people faced and continue to face.

In 1981, Toronto police raided bathhouses frequented by gay men and arrested 306 people. Except for the October Crisis, it was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Police shamed the arrested men by processing them in towels in the middle of the street and named them in the media at a time when being outed as gay could have devastating consequences. The next day, 3,000 people protested this mass violation of human rights on Yonge Street.

Though gay rights groups had organized smaller, less public events beginning in the 1970s when homosexuality was decriminalized, they had trouble organizing larger events the City refused to issue permits to gay rights groups. The bathhouse raids, however, pushed activists toward civil disobedience. It took the form of an annual parade on Yonge Street.

In 1991, Toronto officially recognized Pride and Barbara Hall became the first Toronto mayor to march in the parade in 1995.

From addressing the AIDS epidemic to winning same-sex marriage to gaining protections for trans human rights, the LGBT rights activism that is at the heart of Pride has made great progress since the 1980s. But as much progress as had been made, the Orlando massacre is a stark reminder of how much is left to do so all people, no matter who their love or how they express their gender and sexuality are accepted and feel safe no matter where they go.

For more information on participating in The Society’s Pride parade contingent, contact IESO Local Unit Director Cindy Roks at roksc@thesociety.ca.