Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

Local Activist to Hold Emergency Meeting in bid to Unify the Two Separate Trans* Marches

UPDATE: The meeting address has changed. It’s here, at 1PM:

Ryerson Student Centre
55 Gould Street, Toronto ON, M5B1E9, Toronto, Ontario M5B1E9

Two Trans* Marches? Again!? WTF?

For those who may not be aware, there’s the big long one on Yonge Street, Trans* Pride March and Rally at WorldPride 2014, and then there is The Trans March 2014, organized by a handful of dissatisfied community members due to a historical animosity with Pride Toronto. Confused yet? Others might be too, including the many visitors Toronto will receive from all over the world for WorldPride 2014.

One community member is taking action to try to solve this dilemma. Kira Andry helms this startlingly bold endeavour in an attempt to encourage their elders to see eye to eye, and come to the table to reach an amicable resolution. A genderqueer member of the Trans* Community, Kira is the same young activist who organized the #FreeAvery protest rally earlier this year.

The potential for confusion and misunderstanding is Kira’s concern, and motivation for this eleventh hour effort to organize an emergency meeting to bring both sides together, or at least to give space for a collection of any interested community members to join together for a consensus-based statement about the split marches.

a split image of the Trans* Pride Flag (blue-pink-white-pink-blue) and the Genderqueer Pride Flag (purple-white-green). The two flags are split diagonally.“I am looking at the big picture,” Kira said. “In a week’s time the world will have its eyes on us. I believe we will make a bigger impact if we work together and are a unified community rather than a splintered one.”

Research indicates that Toronto will have the first ever Trans* Pride March in the history of WorldPride. Kira feels, and (judging by social media comments) many in the community seem to agree, a show of unity and solidarity would be more valuable at this time than the continuing schism a split march would bring. There is also concern on social media that many from outside the Toronto community may not understand the nature of the disagreement: they may be intimidated into staying away, or accidentally go to a different march than they intended.

Trans* Pride Team Leads from Pride Toronto have agreed to attend the meeting. Messages seeking comment from Nicki Ward, the organizer of the alternate march, were not returned.

You can add yourself to the Trans* March Unification Meeting event on Facebook, in which Kira explains the goals for the event:

WHO: This event is primarily for those who self identify as something under the trans* umbrella (transgender, non-binary, genderqeer, agender, 2Spirit, genderfluid, etc). If you feel safest having a cisgender ally accompany you, you are more than welcome to bring them along.

WHAT: The aim of this meeting is to add ress the issues between Pride Toronto/Trans Pride and the Community Trans March. We want to acknowledge and address the long standing issues with Pride Toronto, and see what can be done moving forward. We want people to be heard and supported through this process which is why I am trying to find a professional mediator (I will keep people updated on this).

WHY: It all comes down to unity. Right now the people of world have their eyes on us for World Pride, and there are two different competing Trans Marches. I think it would be more effective to send out a unified message rather than a splintered one. We, as a marginalized community, should be fighting against the various forms of oppression we face, rather than each other. Together we stand, divided we fall.

WHEN: Saturday, June 21st 1:00pm – 3:00pm.

WHERE: The 519 Church Street Community Center, Toronto

It has been announced that ASL interpretation services have been confirmed for this event, donated for community by the Trans* Pride Team at Pride Toronto.

The event is tentatively booked at the 519 community center (an accessible venue), however the organizer is looking into alternate venues due to the fact that some Trans* community members have expressed discomfort with the 519 for historical reasons. In any event, whatever venue is ultimately chosen will be wheelchair accessible. Kira is also hoping to arrange for a professional mediator with experience in conflict resolution, but this has not yet been confirmed.

What is going on?

This is not the first time that members of the Trans* Community have split to form their own marching plans, separate entirely from the Annual Trans* Pride March organized by Pride Toronto. In the past, there was a  clear lack of support for the community from Pride Toronto and from the City itself, most obviously demonstrated by the city’s denial of a permit for Pride to host Trans* March on Yonge street… and Pride’s apparent refusal to pursue the issue further. In years past, I and other activists responded to this by opting to pursue the “alternate” march approach.

It was optimistically believed that these issues would now be laid to rest,  following the Trans* Community’s decisive victory in the Battle of Yonge Street last year, which secured the coveted route forever more and put Trans* Pride March on par with both the Dyke March and the Pride Parade itself. However, this was not enough to satisfy some anti-Pride hardliners.

Kira is very much aware of lingering anti-Pride sentiment in the Trans* community. “Yes, Pride has historically been very problematic, but we can’t hold anyone accountable if there is no communication,” they said. “My aim for this meeting is to hold people accountable for their actions, ensure everyone is heard, and ultimately help my community figure out solutions so that we can all work together.” 

Pride Toronto held their first Trans* Pride Town Hall meeting in May (admittedly a bit late to the game), shared the awesome new route, their advancements in Trans* safety and toward better inclusion at Pride in general (based on the previous years’ feedback), and solicited the community for more suggestions. Where most members of the community lauded the new improvements, a small group of anti-Pride activists responded in anger, saying Pride had failed community involvement by not consulting early enough. Shortly thereafter, local community member Nicki Ward declared the launch of her alternate march, scheduled against the Pride event in retaliation.

Full Disclosure

You deserve to know my personal background (and potential biases) with this particular issue. Here’s my personal history with Trans* March.

I was an organizer for the splinter marches in 2012 and 2013, which took Yonge Street without a permit.

Following the Battle of Yonge Street, in 2014 the City of Toronto confirmed they would no longer prevent Pride from hosting their annual Trans* Pride March on Yonge. Pride also committed to working toward better Trans* inclusion and safety for our community members at Pride events. These had always been my goals for Pride, so I accepted an invitation from Pride Toronto to join as a Trans* Pride Team Leader (as of March 2014) to help them realize these intentions.

I am therefore, for all intents and purposes, an organizer for the Trans* Pride March and Rally for WorldPride 2014.

Nevertheless, the views expressed here are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Toronto. Personally, I would love to see the groups unify and have everyone come and express their diverse messages… I welcome any message at Trans* Pride: even an anti-Pride / anti-Corporate message.

As a Trans* community member, I acknowledge that harm has been done in the past by Pride to the Trans* Community, and that Pride has only just begun to repair that damage, and that more work needs to be done.

As to how Pride Toronto will react to a group with anti-Pride sentiment at Trans* Pride, I firmly believe that Pride proved with the QuAIA controversy that they defend free expression and will not censor any views. You will be welcome at Trans* Pride Rally and March, with any political message you bring.

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Christin Milloy