Wednesday • 2016.07.27
Here’s How I Was Banned From Voting Membership in Pride Toronto
After I publicly resigned from my volunteer role with Pride Toronto, Executive Director Mathieu Chantelois and members of Pride’s then-current Board of Directors opted to strip me of my Pride Toronto membership— Despite my hundreds of hours of volunteer work over two years, and my vested interest in the future of Pride.
Pride Toronto Memberships are normally offered at no charge to any Pride volunteer with at least eight hours experience, or for sale to any member of the general public willing to pay a ten dollar “membership fee.” The termination, or quitting, of a volunteer role does not normally lead to the termination of the voting membership; They are separate from each other, and it had been my intention to remain a voting member of the organization itself.
Without my membership, I would be forbidden from running for a position, or even voting for the new Board of Directors at the AGM— Blocked from having any sort of voice in the future direction of Pride.
Their ostensible justification for banning me was not, they claimed, related to my volunteer resignation and my very public criticism of Pride’s chronic mistreatment of marginalized communities. Rather, it was related to some angry text messages I sent to a Staff Coordinator during the festival, during a crisis in which one of Pride Toronto’s official guests had made physical threats against a local trans woman (my girlfriend), and shared her contact information to his thousands of followers on social media resulting in her receiving severe harassment for several hours.
Pride’s guest later deleted the social media post in which he had published my girlfriend’s contact information, but by then the damage had been done.
Pride Toronto refused to take any action to resolve the situation with the guest; He was allowed to proceed on stage, and to the best of my knowledge he was never censured by Pride Toronto in any way.
All of this happened on the day of the Trans Pride Rally and March, which I was responsible for running, thus I was already in a very stressful set of circumstances when I first became aware of Pride Toronto’s celebrity guest having threatened my girlfriend online.
To be clear, I was furious, upset and frightened. In the interest of full disclosure, I freely admit I made a big mistake in how I handled this situation at the time: One of the text messages I sent in anger contained a hyperbolic reference to violence against the guest, in defence against his physical threat to my girlfriend.
I know it was wrong of me to say this, in fact I regretted saying it very shortly thereafter, since as I cooled down from my anger I realized that my comment might be misconstrued as a legitimate threat— So I retracted my statement in the very next message, less than 90 minutes later, making it abundantly clear that I had only peaceful intentions in asking Pride Toronto to intercede and handle the issue with the guest.
I’m not proud of what I said, but here it is:
I’m going to kill him.
With my bare hands
Okay that’s an overreaction
I won’t physically harm him.
But he needs to be disrupted
In a screenshot of those texts provided to the Board of Directors, Mathieu Chantelois included the first two messages— But he cropped out the following ones (see screenshots, below).
First the original conversation:
Then, the version Mathieu Chantelois provided to the Board of Directors… Note where it cuts off at the end:
It is very clear that Chantelois cropped the conversation deliberately, to cast me in the worst possible light following the incident.
I also stated in those messages that I intended to use my local media contacts to publicize Pride Toronto’s mishandling of the incident: An action that I stand by as a journalist, because I believed the story had merit in the public interest.
Unfortunately, my harsh words in the heat of the moment, coupled with my statements intending media exposure of Pride’s mishandling of the guest, were both cited specifically by the Board of Directors as the reasons for my membership ban. Additionally, the board letter I received stated Chantelois had told them several Pride paid-staff were “afraid of me.” More than one of the staff I worked with have told me privately, this was a fabrication. That makes Chantelois’s assertion to the board, that I’m some kind of violent threat, not only a mistruth but also a clear example of manipulative anti-transwoman rhetoric (taking advantage of the “Trans women are violent” trope).
So, what do you think? Some might say I deserved the ban; Others might see it (like I do) as a politically motivated action, couched as it was in dishonest tactics, and coming as it did so soon following my extremely public criticism of the chronic, systemic problems inside Pride Toronto and their impact on community, more recently brought to light by Black Lives Matter (to whom I’ll be forever grateful for supporting the Trans community).
I did try to appeal the ban, but alas, my appeal was rejected. As it stands, I presently remain banned from participating in the democracy of Pride Toronto; At least for the time being.