By Elle Flanders
Two women claimed the same child as their own. In his infinite wisdom, King Solomon declared that in fairness the child must be divided - that is, literally.
Upon hearing her child would be killed, the real mother said, "Please, my lord, give her the child." The lying woman, in her bitterness and jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours - divide it!" The liar thus revealed herself.
Pride Toronto had a difficult decision to make this spring, its house divided in more ways than one. The debate around the inclusion or exclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid had devolved into nonsense: hate vs. free speech, pro-Israeli or anti-Jewish, and other labelling.
This is only the first of many battles to come. Pride is indeed divided between those who want it to serve as a forum for political discussion, social justice and celebration and those who believe that now that we are equal citizens, the work is over: party on.
Ultimately, Pride ruled in favour of not splitting the child, even if it meant a sacrifice. But those who claimed that QuAIA was hateful and hence ruining Pride showed themselves to be the lying mother. In their bitterness, they're going for Pride's jugular.
Round two began this week. Estate lawyer Martin Gladstone, who made the anti-QuAIA film Reclaiming Our Pride, has been leading the charge against QuAIA's inclusion, publicly stating that he will resume lobbying sponsors of Pride to withdraw their funding.
Others, some of whom never wanted Pride to exist in the first place, are advocating that it be defunded. Councillor and mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti weighed in heavily: he's taking a motion to city council Tuesday (July 6) to fully defund Pride retroactively and suggesting to sponsors that they do the same.
Some who support these moves are playing the Pride-loving injured party, but the mask has fallen away. There is no love there for the child, only self-interest. B'nai Brith, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Appeal have all assisted Gladstone in his lobby efforts. And right-wingers Mammoliti, Rob Ford and Rocco Rossi will happily destroy Pride.
The house still has much to do to repair itself. We must move beyond false divides. This is not about pro-Jewish or anti-Jewish or about a single group holding Pride hostage to its political views, but it is about the desire to see Pride keep to its core values and mission: to represent and celebrate the diversity of voices that constitute its community in all its glorious colours.
I extend my hand, as I have on several occasions, to members of the Jewish LGBTQ group Kulanu Toronto to heal our own rift in the queer Jewish community. There is a place for all of us to march at Pride, and I believe we can hold political differences without killing this celebration of difference, the only child we have.
By Kyle Rae
As the queer community has transitioned from a hated outlaw subculture into a community embraced by most of the mainstream, you would expect our expression of ourselves to change over time.
Clearly, what has now become an annual declaration of our equality and celebrity status may well require a retooling. Who are we now? Despite equality successes, do some still wallow in a separatist or victim culture? What is our message? Is the language we use current or stuck in the battles of the past?
When the first Pride was constructed in a six-week panic to meet the June anniversary of Stonewall, we had no support. None! Still seething from the outrage of the February 5, 1981, bath raids, we put on a modest picnic and march. The media did not attend. We were a noisy, embarrassing parade of deviants.
The 90s were the decade of transition into popular acceptance even before governments were prepared to extend equality. As this occurred, the edginess of the parade and its events shifted. To satisfy demand for an upgrade in the entertainment, sponsorships and corporate support took on an enabling role. The city joined the funding formula in 2004.
Today we have a very successful street fair, parade, music and cultural program and community engagement. We have an event that attracts an international following. A few years ago, I met a group of bears from San Francisco at O'Grady's. It was San Francisco's Pride that same weekend. "Why are you here," I asked. "Back home it's too politically correct, lacking spontaneity, joyless. You know how to party here," they said.
While Pride has always been political, the political message for the most part has been the fight against homophobia here and abroad. We didn't demonstrate against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka, the genocide in Rwanda, the atrocities of Sudan in Darfur.
We have addressed the hateful anti-gay penal laws of Iran and Uganda and the hurtful stupidity of the California ruling on marriage. In the mid-80s we did join in the fight against apartheid and its homophobia in South Africa, led by the gentle gay man Simon Nkoli.
Consensus exists for highlighting cases of homophobia, but beyond that the community has not debated the use of Pride as a platform for other contentious international geo-political or humanitarian issues. It leaves most of us in the queer community confused, conflicted, yet expected to choose sides.
I am pleased that Pride has set up a panel to explore what it will look as we enter our fourth decade. Let's hope it celebrates our successes and offers a vision we can embrace. We have built one of the most respected, accepting, diverse queer communities in the world. We have a proud legacy.