An Open Letter of Resignation from Pride Toronto
July 17, 2015 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Trans* activist Christin Scarlett Milloy resigns from her role as Volunteer Team Lead of the Trans Pride Team at Pride Toronto

"When I was asked to join this team in March of 2014 in the lead-up to WorldPride, following years of enmity between Pride and elements of the Trans community, my role was ostensibly to support the goal of achieving legitimate Trans inclusion by implementing positive changes at the Pride Festival... After struggling to achieve these goals through two festival years, and forming a deeper understanding of the inner workings of Pride Toronto, I have concluded that Pride Toronto cannot and will not truly become safe and accessible to the Trans Community as a whole unless a significant organizational transformation takes place— One that would require changes that are well beyond my authority to implement, if I stay in the limited capacity of Volunteer Team Lead."

Milloy's resignation occurs in the context of a growing number of transphobic, transmisogynistic, racist, and ableist incidents at Pride events globally, which has steadily decreased the confidence of marginalized queer people in Pride's ability to represent them:

It's raining racism and transphobia on my Pride parade - Auckland Pride 2015: A Māori trans woman had her arm broken as she protested against New Zealand Police and Corrections staff taking part.

A transgender woman of color on the hypocrisy of the gay rights movement: Today, with New York City’s streets still glittering from the aftermath of the weekend’s Pride festivities, I stand in solidarity with Gutiérrez as she stands up to the government and the queer elite. Many have given her their half-hearted support—agreeing with the cause but discrediting her methods. To these people I ask: when is the right time? Those of us who have not been able to play the assimilation game learned long ago that respectability politics mean nothing when our community is constantly under threat.

Why Did Toronto's Pride Parade Shut Out the Trans March? : In every meaningful sense, June 28th, 2013 was a watershed moment in Trans history. So, why has almost no one heard anything about it?

What Is Wrong With These Pictures From The Gay Pride Parade In Stockholm, Sweden? : A black woman discusses marchers in blackface at Stockholm Pride. (Content warning: photographs of marchers in body suits of black bodies with exaggerated breasts and penises - NSFW)

‘Gay Pride Is For White People’: Unfortunately, I’m not surprised by the reality that pride festivities are curated by white gay men for white gay men. Accepting this fact, I’m more than happy to just attend black gay prides with my friends. But part of me must realize, that as queerness becomes more mainstream, it is incumbent upon queer communities of color to make sure that we put pressure on the national narrative to keep queerness from being synonymous with white, skinny, able-bodied, cisgender maleness.

Boston Pride confronts racism: Black Lives Matter Boston, members of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition and supporters challenged systemic racism and corporate “pride” by stopping the Boston LGBTQ Pride March on June 13 for 11 minutes to draw attention to the 11 trans people of color murdered in the U.S. last year and to the lack of representation of people of color in the organizing of the annual parade.

‘Stand Up’for Exclusion?: Queer Pride, ableism and inequality: Every summer, for example, the Edmonton Pride Festival Society rents one of the most accessible venues in Edmonton, and, through great expense and logistical prowess, manages to transform it into an almost entirely inaccessible space (despite years of being offered free or cheap alternatives for rendering the space more accessible).
posted by Conspire (22 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Here in Chicago, the Trans community has stepped up to create small celebrations completely divorced from Pride: an annual rally and picnic*and a body-positive beach day**.

#BlackOutPride activists also staged a die-in at this year's Pride Parade.

*T.G.I.F., the Transgender, Gender Non-conforming, Intersex Freedom Picnic, which may not be happening in 2015; it's always been a huge project of the incredible singer and activist Kokumo, and if she is not able to shoulder the incredible weight of organizing it yet again this year, I support her.

**This is coming up! Let me know if you need details!

posted by Juliet Banana at 12:26 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I hadn't really been to Pride in years - I'd marched through it with the Trans/Dyke march and then gone home because basically it's crowded, loud, slow and about buying things. This year I ended up hanging out at Pride with some friends and had a pretty messed up and shaming encounter with some queer teens and their friends who were, basically, jerks about me being gender non-conforming. It was weird and also upsetting and humiliating.

Next year I'm thinking of getting some people together for some kind of Gay Shame moment, plus I would like just to give my own party.
posted by Frowner at 12:36 PM on July 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Personally, I fear a world where if I announce that “I am gay,” one’s mind will be flooded with a sea of sex shops, rainbows, and skinny dancing white men.

The Onion in 2001: Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years
posted by Going To Maine at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2015

Here's a little uplifting news - not that L.A. is perfect BY ANY MEANS, and seriously, I could list about a billion ways the queer communities in L.A. are not, but....

Last year the Christopher Street West organization (which plans and organizes the Pride Parade every year in West Hollywood), took it upon themselves to have a trans pavilion at pride each year and permanently rename pride the TLGB Pride Festival and Parade. It's not everything, but it's not nothing either.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Holy shit at the pictures from Stockholm.
posted by these are science wands at 1:08 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

#BlackOutPride activists also staged a die-in at this year's Pride Parade.

I was ENRAGED at gay people who were complaining about this on Twitter. ENRAGED.
posted by desjardins at 1:11 PM on July 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

In Kingston, Ontario, Pride this year was thrown a bit off the rails by an e-mail, written by the local Pride committee's communications manager (!!!!) to the organizing committee, condemning a local trans person for wanting to march in the parade with a Trans Rights sign.

It was a pretty excoriating missive, with "As far as I'm concerned they can hold their own damn protest parade but certainly not at ours" among the key phrases.

The end result, of course, was a parade of hundreds and hundreds of people rolling through Kingston with about 90% of them shouting "TRANS RIGHTS NOW!" at the top of their lungs.

As well as a "retired" communications manager.

It was a pretty good moment for Kingston.

*there's no official count as far as I know, but there were about three city blocks worth of LGBT people and allies makin' noise.
posted by Shepherd at 1:13 PM on July 17, 2015 [20 favorites]

What really drew me to Milloy's letter in the first place is that she talks about Deaf-queer issues revolving around ASL interpretation - it reads like an alternative history of what happened here in Vancouver. Two years ago, the Pride staff sourced student interpreters who couldn't handle any of the content that was being thrown at them from no-where with no preparation material at all, so they left halfway through the day. Fortunately since then they've been working with the Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf here to make massive strides - not only do we have actual professional ASL interpreters with a specific queer/social-justice background - but they've also started a bunch of cool initiatives like creating signing spaces at all of their public events. But I think for a moment there, they were really starting to slide down that slippery slope to inaccessibility too - I think what really set Vancouver apart from Toronto is that they were actually willing to listen to the communities they were serving. It really makes me mad when people don't - especially around ASL interpretation, when it's handled this poorly, it ends up being more theatre for the hearing people to pat themselves on the back about how accessible they are (remember what happened at Nelson Mandela's memorial event?), when Deaf folks actually don't get any real access. I have no doubt what Milloy wrote is accurate, because I've heard from friends over there in Toronto about how frustrated they are about how they can't attend Pride due to all of this repeated shit going on.
posted by Conspire at 1:20 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

As a bi male who has had a long term relationship with a trans-woman, I have learned the hypocrisy and cliquism in the LG* (which it has really been in my experience) community I have been exposed to sickens me.
posted by Samizdata at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

There has been a long history of gay activism (a minority, i believe, but influential nonetheless) that has reeked of "fuck you I got mine" at the expense of trans people and people of color. Particularly ironic given the role that Sylvia Rivera played at Stonewall.
posted by entropone at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Executive Director of Long Beach Pride is Trans. Maybe they could try doing that?
posted by Brocktoon at 2:26 PM on July 17, 2015

There's also been a fair amount of flak directed at Pride in London* for letting UKIP join the march, with the chair of Pride later bragging about it on TV.

*not to be confused with London Pride.
posted by doop at 3:51 PM on July 17, 2015

Another good one on the issues with pride events that's been making the rounds along with a couple of the ones from this post is When, exactly, did pride become a party for straight teens?
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Huh. I know Christin--we're not in touch anymore, I had no idea she was involved with Pride.

There was one small bright moment at the Trans March, though: a bunch of the usual suspects were picketing and generally being assbags, and a bunch of (mostly cis) gay dudes left their own party to form a human wall between the picketers and the marchers.

That is not in any way to say that cis gay dudes aren't horrific on trans issues.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

And yet, Trans* Pride is registered to Toronto Pride in the Canadian trademark database, because hypocrisy knows no bounds.
posted by Phire at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great letter, very clear and forceful. Really hope it has an impact.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:50 PM on July 17, 2015

I can't speak to cm's complaints about the pride committee, but like fffm notes the crowd was GREAT and supportive for the Trans march this year. I marched with my sister and along the route we were told that there were protesters blocking the way but as fffm notes they were soon cleared off. So I'm not disputing that Pride as a committee likely has tons of growth to do but oh man the Trans March has remained a protest march and had the most supportive crowd I've seen yet.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:09 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

And thanks fffm I didn't know what had happened with the protesters. Just one second we were all stopped and a few minutes later the march continued and we never saw the protesters. However, as a veteran of the late 80's prochoice marches I was busy teaching the people around me the chants "you can kneel and you can pray but Trans rights are here to stay" and "racist sexist anti-gay, transphobic bigots go away" (subbing in for what was women's rights and born-again bigots from the protesters at prochoice marches)
posted by biggreenplant at 8:16 PM on July 17, 2015

Honestly I only know about it because a friend of mine was one of the leather boys who stood in the way. (There are photos, I'll see if I can link them here). Apparently the party got wind of what was happening, collectively said "Fuck that noise" and sallied forth.

As for Pride... the committee is basically a hive of scum and incompetent villainy. They've sold out to the almighty corporate sponsorship dollar, and the general transphobia in the community is amplified there. I feel like one of the smarter things they could do, if the trans community is on board, is invite the entire Trans March contingent to also march in the main parade, right after the Dykes on Bikes.

More to the point, though, they need to realize that the T in LGBT isn't fucking silent. Christin and I don't see eye to eye on many issues (which is why we don't talk anymore), and her analysis of the Pride committee is bang the fuck on.

I was just rereading her letter, and mistakenly read the comments. Ugh. MeFi oldtimers will recognize one of the names there. The only difference between him and the majority of the cis gay male world is that he lays it out so baldly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:57 PM on July 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

From the Vice article:
In 2010, they used "cattle gates" to attempt to funnel marchers into a beer-garden. In 2011, they used [cisgender] volunteers to misdirect marchers. In 2012, they marshalled trans marchers through market stalls that were still under construction. . . . [In 2013] they sent out misinformation as to the route, the start time, and even went so far as to print thousands of copies of a route map that showed the march (incorrectly) ending up in one of their beer gardens.
Damn, that's malicious. I know, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence." But not 3 years running. Not when they install cattle gates.

I respect Christin for even attempting to reform an organization that pulled that shit. (Reading between the lines, it sounds like the Trans March antagonism was one of the reasons she was brought on board.) And good on her for pulling out when it was clear the organization wasn't going to change.
posted by Banknote of the year at 8:48 AM on July 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Honestly, while I don't doubt for a hot second the levels of transphobia in Toronto's mainstream LGB community, and the way that's exacerbated at the Pride committee, incompetence may well be the major explanation. I wrote a comment here a bit before Pride about the lack of anything remotely resembling capability amongst the organizers. There is simply no way that Pride should be begging for money every year when so very much of it is sloshing around. The $200-and-whatever-K shortfall? TD can ruffle around their sofa cushions for that (if you're going to sell out, make the price high), and they're not about to let another bank take their marquee status.

I was actually invited to apply to the board circa 2004/5. My then-boss, who was responsible for the invitation and has whirled around the inner circles for years, said basically "I'm extending this to you because it would be wrong not to tell you about the opportunity. Don't. Do. It" and then went into a bunch of stuff I'm not super comfortable repeating here. The tldr version is that, apart from a couple standouts, the committee has for years been a tiny queer version of the IOC, with all that implies. Frankly I'm amazed that Christin got anything done--that's not a dig at her, that's a dig at the committee.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:14 PM on July 18, 2015

That's fair, fffm. In the board I worked on, incompetence usually manifested itself as stuff just not getting done. But other boards are different, and there incompetence could mean stuff gets done, but in a way that antagonizes the community we allegedly serve. Especially if job #1 is to protect the image of sponsors.

Having said that, I just spent the afternoon listening to trans people of colour tell stories of incompetence that's so gross that it's indistinguishable from malice. So, right now, I'm looking at this as a difference without distinction.
posted by Banknote of the year at 6:31 PM on July 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

« Older she's always been tremendously entertaining   |   finally letting go of the Confederate flag as a... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments