LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

Teitel’s commentary, while made in relation to LGBTQ activists, is also more broadly to activists in general.

Her comment about the importance of symbols and recognition to the more vulnerable compared to the privileged worthy of note:

Or, if like a number of LGBTQ activists in this country you’re determined to be miserable until the day you die, you can lament Trudeau’s presence at Pride instead, and label it “pinkwashing” — the LGBTQ equivalent of “whitewashing.”

Not everybody thinks Trudeau’s planned attendance at the Halifax parade this Saturday is a wholly positive thing. Some, such as Kehisha Wilmot, head of Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University Queer Collective, believe Trudeau’s participation is a distraction from the event’s more marginalized participants.

“We have people of colour doing things in this parade,” Wilmot told Halifax magazine The Coast this week, in a story headlined “Trudeau Pinkwashing Pride parade.” “And the big thing we’re currently now looking at is we brought down a white guy in a high-position role to be our focus.”

I don’t want to diminish the work done by groups such as Wilmot’s because it is important work. Yet a reminder is in order that a world leader’s presence at an event does not impede activists from making their voices heard.

Trudeau was in attendance at Toronto’s pride parade in 2016, where Black Lives Matter Toronto managed not only to stage a successful protest that effected tangible change, but to dominate media coverage in the event’s aftermath.

But Trudeau’s presence isn’t the only thing irking some of Halifax’s LGBTQ groups, and similar groups across the country, several of which have boycotted official pride events in their respective cities in recent years.

The corporatization of pride is perceived as a big problem, too: corporate sponsors preaching equality atop enormous company floats, cheesy guys in logo-embroidered thongs handing out coupons for various discounts. “Happy Pride! Here’s five dollars off your next souvlaki platter!”

The corporatization of pride is a fact lamented by many queer activists in the west who appear to yearn for the good old days when the businesses we frequented and services we used didn’t want anything to do with us.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that corporate interests should share the stage with grassroots organizations, but the refusal by some in my community to see the upside of corporate involvement in pride leads me to believe that a number of LGBTQ activists are completely out of touch with reality.

Moreover, these activists are ever eager to identify privilege in other people but they are utterly blind to the privilege they enjoy themselves: they have integrated into a community of like-minded people. Yes, they are marginalized in society at large, but they have found a place where they belong.

Not everyone enjoys this privilege. Take, for example, my friend Yvonne Jele, a gay refugee from Uganda, who is practically brand new to Canada (she fled her native country last year). Jele, who lives in Toronto, was overjoyed when she learned that the leader of her new home was marching in her city’s pride parade.

“People who are mad (that Trudeau participates in pride events) don’t know what it’s like to not be accepted by your leaders and government,” she told me recently.

Jele has some thoughts about corporate interests in Pride, too: “I think everyone can show support during pride,” she said. “It’s important for businesses to do so because it shows that the business is inclusive.”

These broad gestures of support by politicians and businesses matter a great amount to people who aren’t yet integrated into a tight-knit queer community, and they matter to closeted kids who are watching and reading about Pride from a distance, absent the support of such a community.

It’s a very good thing for these kids to know that their banks, hardware stores, coffee shops, internet providers and, yes, their leaders, take a public stance in favour of their rights.

No, these businesses and politicians aren’t by any means perfect. Yes, some of them make errors and false promises. But their participation in pride parades across the country is a gesture of goodwill felt deeply by those who have not yet found their home away from home.

The Prime Minister’s presence at Halifax pride this Saturday will not matter most to the out and proud, but to LGBTQ people who are neither. And the activism of the former should not extinguish the hopes of the latter.

Source: LGBTQ activists in Halifax need to learn to love corporate Pride: Teitel | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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