Pride is about more than a party, say parade goers — it’s a catalyst for changing the world.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made history Sunday when he became the first sitting prime minister to march in the parade.
“It’s a good first step but I hope that he doesn’t just stop at pride, we’re still dying,” said Francesco Caruso, who Toronto visited from Ottawa just for Pride.
Youth homelessness, the Red Cross’s ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men and violence against the LGBTQ community are problems that need to end, he said.
This year’s jubilee is tinged with sadness, in light of the devastating shooting that took place at Pulse nightclub, a gay bar, in Orlando. The parade will be dedicated to the 49 victims of the mass shooting.
“We will not respond to hate with hate. We will mourn and hold these beautiful family members in our hearts, as we continue to fight violence and discrimination against our community,” said Aaron GlynWilliams, Co-Chair of Pride Toronto’s board of directors on Pride’s website.
The parade paused for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Soon after, Black Lives Matter protestors staged a sit in, grinding the parade to a halt until they could speak with Toronto Pride officials.
Mathieu Chantelois, the Pride Toronto executive director, later spoke with members of the Black Lives Matter coalition and signed an agreement banning Toronto Police from having a float in next year’s parade.
“It’s amazing. The first Pride was a riot. Stonewall was a riot. It’s great to have a party but if we’re not uplifting the most marginalized, then what … are we doing?” he said.
The parade kicked off with the roar of motorcycle engines and the flash of the rainbow flag, as a dozen cyclists road down Church Street on their way down the parade route.
Trudeau has marched in the Toronto parade before, but this is the first time he has marched as the prime minister. He was joined by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
“Canada is united in its defence of rights and in standing up for LGBTQ rights; this is what we are truly celebrating today,” Trudeau said after raising the rainbow flag on Parliament Hill on June 1 to kick off Pride Month.
Before the parade, Trudeau attended an outdoor church service in the heart of Toronto’s gay village where he sang along to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Pride has always been political, Chantelois says, and this year’s festivities will also serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to protect LGTBQ rights here abroad.
RuPaul was a last-minute addition to the lineup.
Appearing before a rapturous crowd, RuPaul, dressed in a red gingham tailored suit, he told the crowd of young people that the most important thing in life is to love yourself “every minute of every minute.”
“With so many tragedies, with so much darkness, it’s important to surround yourself with people who know who you really are,” he said.