Suprise! Rob Ford values family tradition over the celebration of queer identity and is once again not attending Toronto's Gay Pride festival.
His brother wasn't surprised about this planned absence, but he was shocked by how early reporters asked about an event that is more than two months away. My guess is that he would not be surprised at all if reporters simply wanted to know if the family was going to their cottage again for the Canada Day holiday weekend.
He and his brother would love to publicly announce their commitment to family values and appreciation for the outdoors all under the auspices of an innocuous nationalist celebration. Too bad for them, the inherent values that tie them to that family tradition must be propped up against the continuous fight against homo/trans/queer/phobia and the celebration of free sexual expression.
Right up until the moment the TNT men bare their bodies and march along the hot cement on Yonge Street, the public will eagerly await Ford's arrival. They will hope that on Sunday he'll leave his cottage, hop on a fire truck wearing a mesh tank top and shake his derriere open-mouthed seductively slurping the water sprayed by eager and angry onlookers. If Ford chooses to attend one of the many events during Pride Week there will be tweets and blogs about his choices: Does going to a formal reception "count" as being part of Pride? Maybe if it's hosted by The Black Eagle?
It is atrocious that Ford is dismissing this event for the second time. As one of the largest summertime festivals hosted by this city it is a requirement for anyone who calls themselves a Toronto "leader." What's worse is seeing images of Ford at Caribana, smiling like a 12-year-old boy, flanked by two beautiful women in full costume. I always wonder what family event he had to skip to attend THAT festival.
But this isn't a surprise. When Ford became Mayor he never intended on changing his leadership methods from when he was a city councillor -- limit his understanding and appreciation for "fringe" groups, cut down on spending and cipher as much money as possible into the family printing business. Why would he alter his personal life to support the diverse voices of the city?
What if Ford did attend the key events at Toronto Pride? It certainly would not make up for his quips about the HIV+ community. It would definitely not encourage anti-Fordists to change their minds for the next election. It would merely be a sign of Ford buckling under pressure by other council members, the press and the public. Does this sound like a worthwhile endeavour?
If Pride is about celebration, the community should reify its true leaders instead of being disappointed by elected ones. Kristyn Wong-Tam is Toronto's only openly gay city councillor. While that is a feat unto itself, she also is an active supporter of the queer community.
More importantly, she emulates the values of Pride -- equality, free expression and community. She has worked tirelessly to commemorate prominent members of Toronto's queer community, advocate for political groups at Pride and encourage urban entrepreneurship among small businesses in the Church-Wellesley village.
If she and other leaders that truly participate in the queer community received at least as much press as the issue of Rob's attendance did, Torontonians would have a far richer understanding of the significance and relevance of Pride.