With the theme “Superqueer,” this year’s 33rd edition of Pride Toronto featured nearly 300 entertainers, including such world-class DJs and performers as Chus + Ceballos, Lady Bunny, Frankie Knuckles, Abel, Alyson Calagna, Ana Paula, Isaac Escalante, and dozens of others performing and playing on seven stages spread out across 24 city blocks, making the entire neighborhood of Church-Wellesley a weeklong spectacle of live entertainment.
In New York City, the Stonewall Riots in 1969 sparked the LGBT movement, while in Toronto, it was the police bathhouse raids of 1981 that ignited LGBT activism.
Toronto’s first Pride celebration was held in 1984, with recognition from the city council in 1991 – and since then, Pride Toronto has become one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations with an estimated attendance of 1.2 million people.
A two-time winner of “Best Festival in Canada” and one of the “Top 50 Festivals” in Ontario, as well as one of Toronto’s eight city-designated signature events, Pride Toronto is a ten-day celebration that culminates in a massive three-day final weekend. During Pride weekend, Toronto’s gay Village becomes a night-and-day street festival that resembles an urban Burning Man Festival where freedom is celebrated.
One of the most diverse populations in the world, the citizenry of Toronto includes over 200 ethnic groups, speaking more than 130 languages and dialects – with more than 50% of the population born outside of Canada.
Since 2005, Pride Toronto has utilized the more appropriate acronym LGBTTIQQ2SA, which means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited, and Allies. As Pride Toronto Co-Chair Francisco Alvarez states, “Since every culture and diaspora is represented…you’ll see yourself reflected in this city.”
While most other cities around the world celebrate Pride with a march or a parade, Toronto has three: the Dyke March, the Trans March, and the Pride Parade. With more than 150 floats and marching (or dancing) contingents, this year’s Pride Week sponsors included TD, Bud Light, Trojan, and Viagra – or, in other words, money, sex, and alcohol: the trinity of life.
Early on Sunday morning, Torontonians and tourists start lining up behind the barricades along Bloor and Yonge Street (which is, incidentally, the longest street in the world at nearly 1,200 miles) and remain there, five-deep, for the duration of the cacophonous celebration.
Over at Green Space on Church, the four-day festival in Cawthra Square Park “celebrates difference” for the benefit of the 519 Church Street Community Centre. Brilliantly programmed by Ian Abinakle with a roster of all-star DJs, the proceeds from the all-day parties (more than $250,000) support the 519’s community programs. With a disco ball spinning in the night sky amidst an illuminated forest of rainbow-colored trees, thousands of people danced in joyful exultation alongside Toronto’s AIDS Memorial.
The recent conclusion of Pride Toronto’s 33rd edition marked the commencement of the preparation for the citywide celebration of WorldPride 2014.
From June 20-29, 2014, Pride Toronto will host the first WorldPride event ever held in North America in an effort to raise awareness of inequality and, consequently, to effect positive change through education and outreach.
Nearly thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the United States, Upper Canada banned slavery in 1834, enabling escaped African-Americans to settle in Toronto. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. Once again, Canada has become a global leader for human rights.
As Alvarez states, “Our vision for WorldPride is that all of the city is hosting,” which means that from June 20-29, 2014, Toronto will be celebrating the largest Pride in the world.