Throughout the summer months, cities across North America take their turns in celebrating Pride. From the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in late June right up until those first signs of Fall in September each city puts their own spin on the progress we have made as a community. Local and international progress is recognized to show that despite the diversity of those that fit into the LGBT name and more we are indeed a unified front whose agenda has evolved from a gay rights initiative into one of Global Human Rights.
This summer Toronto was host to the first North American “World Pride” and for two weeks indubitably became the Gayest City on the Planet. As a mecca for Canadian LGBT's for over five decades it fittingly welcomed others from around the world to experience and celebrate a way of life that many in other countries strive for.
The entire city came together to feature various events that were not just reserved for the “Gay Village”. Oh no!
The opening ceremonies held at City Hall featured an impressive array of representatives from across the country including Canada’s first openly gay Premier-elect Kathleen Wynne welcoming the world to Toronto. Canada’s heritage was also proudly on display from the beautiful ritual performed by some of our indigenous people right up to another uplifting performance by homegrown but world-renowned vocalist and megastar Deborah Cox.
San Francisco artist and creator of the Rainbow Flag, Gilbert Baker and superstar Melissa Etheridge were also on hand participating in the festivities. They brought the message of how each one of us can make a difference. Undeniably, it was their actions that have greatly contributed to our history and progress as a global community. It also catapulted them into the gay icon status that the rest of us have come to embrace and appreciate for their altruistic efforts. How fitting for a fireworks display to be the climax of such an impressive lineup.
Throughout the ten-day run there was a variety of conferences and forums featuring dignitaries and delegates from across the country and world discussing various topics and thought provoking strategies. Despite the significant gains Canada has made in equal rights many countries, due to political, religious and social beliefs still have draconian laws that include punishment by imprisonment or even death for being gay.
Canada is only one of 16 countries in the world where same-sex marriages are legal. So perhaps it was a dream come true for those from countries like Australia, Taiwan and Ghana, for example, that tied the knot as 110 couples did on June 26th. It was an event that they too will long cherish as part of Toronto’s World Pride Festivities. The “I do’s” were attended by over 1,000 guests and presided over by officials from 12 denominations at historic Casa Loma which has it’s own rich history as a Canadian landmark.
Various entertainers, artisans and groups, local and international, added to the calendar with a diverse range of activities that made for incredibly long line-ups. Thrilled audiences that managed to gain entry into the variety of daily scheduled events collected yet another set of memorable experiences that the media quickly shared around the world.
Various local and national businesses also expressed their support for LGBT people throughout the city. From malls to various suburbs scattered around Toronto all were made to feel safe, welcome and valued without one single unpleasant incident as nearly two million people shared in the revelry. Naturally, there were those neigh-sayers on the outskirts of various events expressing their own biased opinions but again…without incident.
Although World Pride was technically a ten-day event various exhibits, shows and other significant cultural events spanned 33 days beginning in late May and ending on Canada Day, July 1st. The annual Pride and Remembrance Run was one of many sporting events also featured as part of the activities many came out to participate and/or support.
And then there was the Dyke March and Pride Parade that featured various peoples, organizations and businesses that have garnered the recognition Toronto has earned as a cornerstone in the history books. First from within, and then with the support of others, Toronto was one of the first cities to initiate the struggles and eventual triumphs we have managed to bare witness to throughout the last fifty years as a community. From gay rights to the fight against HIV and AIDS we have not only helped each other locally but also reached out globally and will continue to do so moving forward.
It was the perfect “icing on the cake” for a huge rainbow to appear over the Toronto skyline as the closing ceremonies wrapped up in the heart of downtown. A befitting gesture in acknowledging that many of us that have made Toronto our home over the last 50 years would agree with Dorothy in saying, “There’s no place like home”.