PRIDE is getting a lot of extra attention this year, as the we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the iconic New York City Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969, an uprising against police brutality and enforcement of racist, homophobic and transphobic discrimination.
Many credit this riot and the ensuing rebellion as a turning point for the international movement for 2SLGBTQ+ rights and visibility we now experience as PRIDE.
Toronto PRIDE Week also began with a riot. After years of small, community-organized picnics on Toronto Island and demonstrations in front of the legislature, it wasn’t until the day after Toronto police raided four bathhouses on February 5th, 1981 that the community said “enough is enough” to homophobic police violence and demanded city policy makers protect the human rights of their citizens.
“Operation Soap” forced hundreds of men outside (most wearing only towels in the frigid cold) and resulted in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, along with seizure of personal property and a large amount of personal information by police. The following day, a large protest shut down the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley, as thousands flooded the streets demanding the attention of city council and cementing the beginning of summer as Toronto’s official PRIDE celebrations.
Homophobic and transphobic violence continues across our country to this day, and as recently as last weekend in Hamilton, homophobic protestors and a tenuous relationship with law enforcement, led to violence and injuries of queer celebrants. The symbolic protest and visibility of PRIDE – across our province – is as relevant now as ever before.
We at the Ontario AIDS Network are proud of the work of our entire Network as it stays pushes beyond stigma and shame to compassion and caring service.Increasingly, your work forces you to stand up to a growing tide of political conservatism, just to do your work: improving the lives of those living with, and affected by, HIV.
We see you and we thank you. Not just this week, but throughout the year.