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Open Letter to Pride Toronto from founders of Pride in 1981

May 27, 2010

As founding members of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, and people involved in organizing the first Pride event in Toronto at the end of June in 1981, we stand totally opposed to the decision of the current Toronto Pride Committee to ban the use of “Israeli Apartheid” at Toronto Pride events. This banning of political speech is clearly an attempt to ban the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) and queer Palestine Solidarity supporters from the parade and from participation in a major event in our communities. This sets a very dangerous precedent for the exclusion of certain political perspectives within our movements and communities from Pride events. We call on the Pride committee to immediately rescind this banning and to instead encourage QuAIA’s participation in the pride parade.

We remind people of the political roots of Pride in the Stonewall rebellion against police repression in 1969 and that the Pride march in 1981 in Toronto grew out of our community resistance to the massive bath raids of that year. On the Pride march in 1981 about a thousand of us stopped in protest in front of 52 Division Police Station (which played a major part in the raids) and our resistance to the bath raids was rooted in solidarity with other communities (including the Black and South Asian communities) also facing police repression. Two of the initiating groups for Pride in 1981 — Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere (GLARE) and Lesbians Against the Right (LAR) — organized Pride as part of more general organizing against the moral conservative right-wing. This included not only its anti-queer but also its anti-feminist, racist and anti-working class agendas.

We also remember in the 1980s that lesbian and gay activists around the world, including in Toronto in the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee, took up the struggle not only for lesbian and gay rights in South Africa but linked this to our opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white supremacy in South Africa. This global queer solidarity helps to account for how it was that constitutional protection for lesbians and gay men was first established in the new post-apartheid South Africa.

Solidarity with all struggles against oppression has been a crucial part of the history of Pride. To break this solidarity as the Pride Committee has now done not only refuses to recognize how queer people always live our lives in relation to race, class, gender, ability and other forms of oppression but also breaks our connections with the struggles of important allies who have assisted us in making the important gains that we have won.

Signers:

Katherine Arnup, founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Lesbians Against the Right and Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Hugh English, one of the first organizers of Toronto Pride, a former member of GLARE, and a queer in solidarity with struggles against oppression around the world.

Amy Gottlieb, member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Gary Kinsman, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, member of the Simon Nkoli Anti-Apartheid Committee.

Natalie Polonsky La Roche

Ian Lumsden, founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee and member of Gay Liberation Against the Right Everywhere.

Michael Riordon, co-host (with Lorna Weir) of the first Toronto Lesbian & Gay Pride Day, 1981; founding member of Bridges (between gay/lesbian & Latin American liberation movements); author of the forthcoming book, Our Way to Fight, on peace activists in Israel and Palestine.

Mariana Valverde

Lorna Weir, co-host (with Michael Riordon) of the first Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, founding member of Lesbians Against the Right.

Brian Woods, member of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere, and founding member of the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee.

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