Tuesday • 2015.06.16
Pride Toronto Announces 2015 Trans* Pride March Route: Longer Than Pride Parade
Pride Toronto has published their info map, which confirms the routes for the Dyke March, Trans* Pride March, and the Pride Parade. Once again, both the Dyke March and Trans* Pride are enjoying routes which run longer than the Pride Parade itself, in recognition of the political struggles that remain for queer women and Trans* people. This year’s Pride aims to be more political, at least for members who intersect those particular identities, and their fabulous allies.
Trans* Pride March will be the longest of the three, beginning at the site of the one-hour politicized Trans* Pride Rally at Pride’s North Stage, at Church Street and Isabella, then heading up to Bloor, over to Yonge, and then down all the way to Dundas, terminating outside the Yonge Dundas Square Stage (sponsored by Molson Canadian) where marchers may attend, if they wish, to the Transforming Pride showcase, a completely free show performed by Trans artists and speakers.
There is a public Facebook event page for the Trans* Pride Rally and March 2015.
This “long march” trend continues the precedent set in 2013 when grassroots community organizers joined forces with Pride Toronto’s Trans* Pride Team to force the city’s hand in expanding the permits for Yonge Street’s closure, to equally accommodate Trans people.
That trend solidified when Toronto celebrated WorldPride in 2014, and the Trans* Pride March once again took to Toronto’s main thoroughfare to express their political demand for Trans equality under the watchful eye of an international audience.
How March and Parade Routes are Selected by Pride Toronto
Each year, the Pride Parade route is determined by paid Pride Toronto staff.
What originated as an unpermitted and unfunded queer liberation riot arising from the 1981 bathhouse raids, following unconscionable abuses of queer people by the Metropolitan Toronto Police and their forced-outing by the Toronto Sun, has evolved over time into a successful non-profit organization with support and funding from the Municipality of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and a variety of corporate sponsors. The annual route of Toronto’s Pride Parade is similar each year, and does not generally prove to be a contentious issue in Toronto’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual communities.
Dyke March Team, and the Trans* Pride Team, both made up of unpaid volunteers from their respective communities, operate more independently than the Pride Parade. Each team selects their own route for their respective marches (subject to availability of street closure permits obtained by the organization from the City of Toronto). The process of deciding the two March routes involves community consultation at public meetings, held by each team for their communities, at various times throughout the year at accessible venues with ASL interpretation provided.
Owing to the fact that community consultation meetings are subject to privilege and availability of community members to attend, the teams also accept discussion of the routes from community members via social media channels, by personal scheduled meetings when requested, and by their email accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).
Both teams endeavour to respond dynamically to the changing needs of their communities, and welcome engagement by all members of those communities.
A Brief History of Toronto’s Trans* Pride March Routes
By Canadian law, marches don’t require permits— Public assembly and marching are protected forms of personal expression, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the greatest things about Canada is that if you and your group are pissed off and oppressed, you can take to the streets at a moment’s notice, and stop rich white traffic on Bay Street to voice your concerns via sharpies, bristol board, and a borrowed megaphone.
However, Pride Toronto’s street closure permits, issued by the council of the City of Toronto, have helped to ensure additional safety for the Pride Parade and the Dyke March for many years. Getting permission to close the streets for the Pride Parade and for Dyke March has never been a problem for Pride Toronto, at least in recent memory.
Except, the City’s persistent refusal to grant additional street closure permits for Trans* Pride, occurring between 2009 and 2012, coupled with Pride Toronto’s non-profit-related legal liability concerns over personal injury, led to a subdued and restricted Trans* Pride March in those years, limited to a three-block stretch of space within the gay village that was already closed due to the street festival.
That shorter route, on a road not even temporarily cleared of streetfair booths and gay revelers, turned Pride Toronto’s Trans* Pride March into what more than a few in the community perceived as a confusing, disrespectful and messy afterthought. This prompted a series of independent protest Trans marches, taking Yonge street by force and without street closure permits, initiated by members of the Trans* community angry about a lack of respect and inclusion at Pride and by the City of Toronto.
The first counter-march happened in 2011, in the same time slot as the Trans* Pride March (in opposition), organized by Stefonknee Wolsht.
Then again in 2012, organized by myself (with aid from volunteer marshals, who endured assault from bicycle police), this time picking up right from the end of the “official” Trans* Pride March, and leading enthusiastic marchers to continue on through the city.
And then finally, a cooperative effort in 2013, organized by me and some other community organizers. It was an unprecedented event— Pride Toronto’s Trans* Pride Team, in the face of the city’s refusal (yet again) to open up Yonge street to Trans people, agreed to step aside entirely from organizing a Trans* Pride March, focusing their efforts and resources instead on running a fantastic Trans* Pride Rally… And letting the community itself do what they do best: Raise hell with a wicked civil rights march.
In 2013, Pride Toronto’s Trans* Pride Rally fed into a community-led Trans march that took Yonge Street by storm. When the City learned what was going to happen, they belatedly issued the street closure permit for Yonge, and it has held firm every year since.
Transformative Impact on Pride Toronto
The Battle for Yonge Street served as a wake-up call, proving the necessity of working toward proper Trans inclusion in the Pride Toronto organization, throughout the festival, and moving toward a re-politicized future for this once-grassroots organization. While other Pride organizations struggle to accept their inherited obligation to support the political movement for Trans liberation, Pride Toronto has begun to get it right, with multiple new endeavours announced this year to support the Trans community.
Today, Trans-identified people occupy positions and contribute organizational perspectives not just on the Trans* Pride Team, but as members of other volunteer teams throughout Pride… such as Dyke March, Clean Sober & Proud, the International Grand Marshall team, and more.
There are Trans voices on the staff payroll, working day in and day out at Pride Toronto’s new accessible headquarters at 55 Berkley Street, and on Pride Toronto’s executive Board of Directors.
In short, the Beer-and-Condoms party that is the Pride Festival is unlikely to slow down any time soon, but thanks to the resources afforded by this organization, we have a wicked-cool rally planned to make space for oppressed voices scheduled to rail against social issues like non-profit engines absorbing community space and taking queer money, about the murders of Black and indigenous women and trans people of colour, about the impact of oppression on intersectional experience of poverty, race, disability and trans identity, on the isolation of marginalized communities from events organized around their own identities by privileged academic organizations, and more.
And yes, a continuation of the largest, longest, and best Trans* Pride March the city of Toronto has ever known, demanding social change for our acceptance, and equal respect for our identities as human beings. Trans* Pride lives on.
So please, by all means bring your politics and show them off at Pride Toronto, to a sympathetic audience— Tens of thousands of potential allies. And always, always, be as angry as you want to be: We need you right now, we’re trying to change the world (and our own organization) for the better.
As always, Trans* Pride Team, Dyke March, and Pride Toronto are accepting volunteers (the more political, the better). If you’d like to bring your vision, access the resources this organization has to offer, and help make the world a better place, now is an ideal time to come aboard.
Happy Pride everyone, see you at Trans* Pride and the Dyke March.
Disclaimer: The author serves as volunteer Team-Lead for the Trans* Pride Team at Pride Toronto (2014 to present). The views expressed here are her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Pride Toronto or its sponsors.