As many of you know, June is pride month! I’ve been so excited to promote this as a titleholder, and I’ve been looking forward to it since I was crowned. However, many of you may not know the origins of pride. So in this blog, I’ll be telling you about the origins and importance of pride, why it’s important, and the pride parade I had the chance to walk in! Many don’t know that pride month started as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which happened in June of 1969. Since then, it has grown into an event that spans nations, genders, sexualities, and races. It is such an important event for so many people, and I was excited to participate in this year’s events!
First, a little history. On June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn, which was a known gay club in downtown Manhattan. Police would raid the club from time to time, but this time, people began to fight back. A protest broke out that ended up lasting the rest of the week. That was nearly 50 years ago now, and it was the event that began the modern day gay rights movement, which has since blossomed into a movement for the entire LGBT community. In 1970, the very first gay pride event, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. People gathered from across the city, marching on Sixth Avenue all the way from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Not long after, other commemorative marches in a number of cities across the USA began to be held. This, over time, transformed into the celebration we know of today. While it did start to commemorate a huge turning point in the age-old fight for equality, it is now not only this, but a celebration of being different, and more importantly, being yourself. It creates a space that welcomes differences and encourages individuality, and more importantly, tells people that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not something to be ashamed of.
The Toronto Pride Parade took place on June 24th. My boyfriend and I woke up bright and early Sunday morning and hopped on the GO Train to downtown Toronto. We had a chance to walk around for a couple hours before it was time to line up for the parade. Seeing everyone dressed up and happy, celebrating pride gives me indescribable joy. I had the opportunity to go to the New York City parade back in 2014, and it was such a great experience. Being in a space where having a gender identity or orientation other than cis and straight is not only accepted but celebrated, is a life-changing experience. It gives so many people, including myself as someone who identifies as bisexual, a much-needed space to feel free to be themselves, and have it be welcomed with open arms. I loved seeing this in the faces of those in the crowds as we walked around, looking at all the vendors and booths. After a couple hours, we went to the meet up at the Get REAL booth. Get REAL (Reaching Equality at Last) is a non-profit organization that has spoken to over 150,000 students in 8 provinces and 3 states about LGBTQ+ issues and combating prejudice. The organization has been featured on Global News, CTV, Much Music, and the National Post. They have university chapters and high school after-school programs, as well as presentations and workshops for middle school students.
“Get REAL was founded in 2011, inspired by our experiences volunteering in the Welcome Week program at Western University. As older mentors to hundreds of students each year, we began noticing that we were having success talking to our first years about derogatory (homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc) language, and creating a safe space for marginalized students who were looking to express themselves safely. The reason was in our approach: we were close in age, friendly, non-judgemental, and personal — we often opened up about our own lives to build a genuine, honest, human connection. And it worked. We saw countless students changing their language within days, and countless others coming out to us and feeling more comfortable being themselves.”
I was honoured to have the opportunity to walk with them in the Toronto Pride Parade, and I was taken aback by how welcoming everyone was, especially Chris, one of the founding members of the organization! Although it quite literally “rained on our parade”, that didn’t put a damper on the occasion! The whole walk was filled with smiles and music and dancing, and I even saw a number of friends during the walk. By the end, both my boyfriend and I were sore and exhausted, but we couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was. Overall, it was a successful and exciting day, and I can’t wait for next years parade!
Til Next Time