Standing proud

Flag-raising for Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia not upstaged by Mayor Ford

At the flag-raising for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Mayor Rob Ford spoke haltingly, awkwardly. It may have been the subject matter, it may have been that he had other things on his mind. But the explanation could very well be neither, as his performance was consistent with most other occasions on which he’s read out public proclamations.

His words adhered to those on the official pronouncement. With two exceptions. One, he omitted “Transsexual” from the end of the sentence which – in its full form – says that Toronto “welcomes, values and supports the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two Spirited and Transsexual (LGBT) community.”

He also skipped over the entire paragraph which states that “Toronto is a beacon for LGBT people who want to live, work and play in a city that respects and celebrates them.” (Both parts that he missed were written on the specific plaque from which he was reading.)

The lapses, however, were most likely accidental. He certainly seemed distracted. Ford was the first speaker and had difficulty paying attention to the remarks of the councillors, PFLAG members and other allies who followed him.

Councillor Shelley Carroll spoke about her late mother, who was ahead of her time in her attitudes. Councillor Mary Fragedakis spoke about institutional homophobia in the video game industry. Trans activist Enza Anderson spoke about an unpleasant recent experience at Pearson Airport. Pride Toronto’s TK spoke about how public perspectives toward gay and trans people have so radically shifted over the last few decades. PFLAG speaker Shane Hebel spoke about the role of role models.

All the while, Ford stood in the back, shifting uncomfortably, frequently gazing upward – sometimes at the towers of City Hall, sometimes at the rainbow flag.

But the event, which lasted half an hour, did not become about Rob Ford. For an observer to ignore all of the context would be impossible and silly, but it’s a testament to PFLAG’s organizers, speakers and message that the integrity of the event was never violated.

A broad range of allies, from politics and the public, came out to support the substance of the ceremony and overwhelmed those who were searching out spectacle.

At the end, Rob Ford and Toronto PFLAG president Irene Miller shared a hug. It was touching. And no one in the press throng seemed immediately sure of the best way to put that moment into the past, so that we could get on with the necessary business of chasing our mayor and subjecting him to all of the important questions that he would firmly refuse to answer.

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