Is Pride getting too predictable for you? Lots of artists and activists are offering new and improved events and elements.
Human Rights Get their due
We all like to celebrate – and Pride is primo party time. But this year, Pride’s pressing us to think about those people around the world who don’t have the right to be queer, let alone party about it.
Filmmaker and activist Elle Flanders has been working with a new Pride human rights committee to insert some global awareness into the picture. It took a long time to rope her in. She’s always been a bit crabby about the big queer party.
“I felt like Pride was only about celebration and it didn’t have the meaning I thought it should have.
“I’m not the only one who’s been disheartened by our community’s lack of commitment to human rights. In the post-?AIDS era of same-?sex marriage and benefits, we’ve been resting on our laurels.”
Look for NOW’s feature next week on International Grand Marshal Gareth Henry, human rights activist organizing to improve the lives of queers in Jamaica. Naming Henry grand marshal is one of many steps the committee is taking to spotlight rights abuses around the world.
A dynamite panel slated for Monday (June 23) moderated by Cynthia Rothschild, a senior policy adviser to the United Nations, features, among others, Dayee Abdulla, one of the only out imams in the world, who’ll connect to the panel via Web satellite.
Out imam? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
“People who think that way have been educated in traditional schools where they’re taught that homosexuality is forbidden,” says Abdulla.
“But that’s coming from secondary sources. The prophet Muhammad never had a legal case dealing with homosexuality. So how could he have made a judgment about it? He couldn’t have.”
Show your support for gay human rights around the world by marching in the contingent behind Henry.
As Flanders says, “Nobody’s free until we’re all free.”
On why he won't say which country treats queers the poorest:
On why gay imam is not an oxymoron:
On how muslim values can collide with queerness as some practice it:
Pride’s always loved a party, yet it hasn’t warmed to the visual arts. But Sara Malabar’s taking her role of arts and entertainment program manager to new heights.
“Everything used to be focused on music,” she says. “Now we’re reimagining Pride as an arts festival.”
Proof is the Plot Engage Disperse component of Pride, a series of art performances and installations, many of them interactive, some designed to take you by surprise (so we won’t be talking about those.)
Murmur brings its oral history project to Pride this year. They’re the guys who put green ears on a pole with a number to call so you can to get info on the spot where you’re standing. Look for one in George Hislop Park during Pride weekend.
Paige Gratland supplements her Art Metropole show (See Queer Quips, page 58) with her Tit Pin project. Look for her stall in Norman Jewison Park on Pride Day, June 29, when she takes a picture of your breasts (man boobs allowed) and puts it on a pin for you to wear.
Look for performances from Lex Vaughan and Jess Dobkin and the art installation Old-?School Femme (For Joan Nestle) by Melissa Levin.
Levin’s inviting femmes to bring a salacious piece of clothing to hang on a clothesline installed in James Canning Park between noon and 2 pm on Dyke Day.
“There’s a big backlash around the use of the word ‘lesbian’ and the dichotomy of butch/femme,” says Levin. “In the age of fluidity, I want to honour the words ‘lesbianism’ and ‘femme.’”
Guaranteed, as Malabar puts it, “to pull people out of their usual Pride experience.”
Do not try to kiss off a consistently packed event and think you can get away with it.
Hardworking Homosexual Moynan King tried to say goodbye to Cheap Queers, that fabulously inexpensive and outrageous cabaret night, and got huge flack.
“Last year, when we didn’t have the event, people were yelling at me during Pride,” says King. “’Whadya mean, no Cheap Queers?’”
“We started Cheap Queers 10 years ago when Pride ran for only the weekend. Pride only offered circuit parties, and that meant that none of these queer artists and performers were working during Pride.
“But Pride changed and expanded and we didn’t think the event was needed.”
People really missed it. The three-?day performance festival, running June 25 to 27, features at least 15 acts per night, short and, preferably, not showcasing the talent the artist is most know for.
The shows have been wildly diverse, consistently pushing the envelope. This year’s version, unfolding at Buddies’ mainspace (12 Alexander, 416-?975-?8555), is hosted by Keith Cole on June 25, Jess Dobkin June 26 and Ronnie Burkett on the final night. Specific slots haven’t been worked out, but Diane Flacks, Shoshana Sperling and R.M. Vaughan will show up at some point.
And the price? $6.49.
Who knows? You could get lucky.
Boylesque’s Mahogany Storm
You can’t just do Pride by installing yourself at the corner of Church and Wellesley any more. West Queen West is so gay, some people are calling it West Queer West, and there’s now a full-?fledged Queer West Fest (gaywest.ca) that’s heading to the finish line this weekend.
“We’re definitely alternative compared to Pride,” says Bryen Dunn, activist and festival innovator. “We get 1,000, not a million. We’ve grabbed the word ‘queer’ and taken it to its root – quirky and indie.”
Look for the Frydaze Musical Madness event Friday (June 20, 7 to 10 pm) in the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar (1214 Queen West), featuring People You Know, the Torrent and Boylesque.
“The artists were here first,” says Dunn, “and so the crowd is different, young, hipper and not all of them queer.”
We can’t be proud if our major Pride event isn’t inclusive. So what’s Pride doing to make sure queers with disabilities can be full participants in the events?
Lots, according to Aaron Hewitt, Pride’s disabilities committee coordinator.
Start with a special headquarters at the northeast corner of Church and Maitland. That’s where you can borrow wheelchairs for up to two hours from 6:30 to 10 pm on Friday (June 27) and noon to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday (June 28 and 29). That doubles last year’s availability levels.
Signing’s also expanded. Last year there were three hours of events where ASL was available. That amount triples this year.
And an audio version of the Pride Guide is available now, thanks to work by the CNIB. For more information, go to Pride’s disabilities resource Web page at pridetoronto.com/disability_resource_services.php.
“Unbelievably, there are still those who think they’re entitled to complain about having to walk around someone in a wheelchair,” says Hewitt.
“The point is that everyone should be able to experience every event at Pride.”