Written by Team Optimity
(3 min read)
June marks Pride Month. This summer, across the country, towns and cities will be celebrating diversity and inclusion by hosting LGBTQ2+ Pride parades, events, and weeks. Today, pride events are celebrations of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. Rainbow coloured flags wave in store fronts, bank buildings, and major streets.
They represent how far Canada has advanced on issues surrounding the LGBTQ2+ rights, but they also stand as reminders of the painful history of LGBTQ2+ relations in our country and around the world. While Canada has made some serious leaps and bounds, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Lesbian, gay, trans, and queer-identified people face higher risks of mental health problems, ranging from depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm, and substance use.
Pride events began as protests; demonstrations against discrimination and injustices committed against the LGBTQ2+ community. It is important while celebrating these fantastic events this year to not forget the history and resistance that sparked them.
June 28th, 1969. New York.
Police raided several gay and lesbian establishments across the city. In response, members of the LGBT community, led by Marsha P. Johnson took to the streets to protest, demonstrate, and demand their right to claim space . This event, known as the Stonewall Riots, was the first of its kind and inspired similar events around the globe over the following years.
October 22nd, 1977. Montreal.
The Montreal Police Department raided two popular gay bars, arresting 146 individuals, the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis in 1970. The impassioned protests and lobbying efforts that followed led to the passing of an amendment to the Quebec Human Rights Code in December of that same year that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
February 5th, 1981. Toronto.
Four gay bathhouses in the city were raided by Toronto Police, which resulted in the arrest of over 300 men, surpassing the Montreal raid total and created a new record that stood for over 25 years. Firsthand accounts from the raids describe protesters verbally attacked with homophobic slurs, photographed naked, and violently handled by members of the police.The following day saw a march led by members of the gay and lesbian community to demand change.
These events, caused by instances of discrimination and homophobia, evolved into the parades and celebrations that we have today. Intolerance was turned into acceptance, hatred into celebration. In 1991, Pride Day was recognized by the City of Toronto and has grown every year, as have the legal rights of the LGBTQ2+ community in Canada. In 1992, gays and lesbians were allowed to serve openly in the military. In ‘95, same-sex couples were allowed to adopt, and in 2005, Canada became the fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Pride now takes place across Canada, with events being held in every province and territory. In 2016, Toronto held its largest Pride event, attended by the mayor of Toronto, Premier of Ontario, and Prime Minister of Canada. The South-Eastern Manitoba town of Steinbach also garnered media attention for hosting its first ever Pride event. Hundreds came out to celebrate, however the decisions of the Mayor of the town, as well as the local MPs and MLA to skip the event, stood as a reminder that inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ2+ community is far from widespread.
The difficulties faced by members of the LGBTQ2+ community are still very real. Police raids of bathhouses continued in Canada into the 2000s, politicians continue to skip pride events, and Pride events often fail to be inclusive of racialized people, but Pride events have become national celebrations of acceptance and diversity. While celebrations will look a lot different this year as we emerge from lockdown, the Pride Parade is a fierce reminder that there is a legacy of resistance that enabled love, in all its forms, to be celebrated. From all of us at Optimity, happy pride!