The Edmonton Pride board of directors have made the executive decision to cancel the city's pride parade this year, citing the current political and social climate surrounding the event. By doing so they are neglecting the history of why pride exists, and how in today's political and social climate, pride existing as both a protest and a celebration is necessary.
Internationally, Pride month is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots that took place in New York City in 1969. These riots occurred due to the over-policing of queer spaces, as the individuals faced ongoing harassment and brutality from the police. Prominent figures in the Stonewall riots included black trans women, who still have the highest rates of murder and police harassment in North America today.
Specifically in Edmonton's history, the over-policing of queer spaces can be seen with the Pisces Bathhouse raid in May 1981, where 56 men were arrested and were denied phone calls or counsel upon being sent to court. The systemic issues that these events are rooted in are still causing harm today as a survey from 2017 reported that 65 per cent of trans youth between 19-25 had considered suicide.
Queer people have clashed with police throughout history. This continues today with higher rates of police presence at LGBTQ2+ events where attendees are more likely to face unjust treatment and harassment from the officers. The historical significance of the queer communities attitudes and beliefs toward the police has further come to light in the past years as groups all over Canada, such as Black Lives Matter, have used the popularity of Pride events as an opportunity to protest and attempt to ban police presence. Police in many of these cities have pushed back against these organizations to keep their presence at parades, ignoring the requests of these groups.
The social and political climate surrounding Edmonton Pride arose from the events that occurred during last year's parade. A group of queer and trans people of colour blocked the parade to voice their concerns and hand out leaflets listing the changes they would like to see. This list included demands such as uninviting the RCMP, military, and police forces from marching in future parades, that more support and voice be given to queer and trans people of colour, as well as clear acknowledgment of the historical police oppression towards the queer community at all Pride events.
Pride should be able to coexist as both a protest and a celebration.
People in Canada are privileged to not face direct execution for being queer. In Canada, gay marriage is legal, gay couples can adopt kids, and gay people in general face decreased amounts of harassment, but this does not mean the fight for queer rights is over.
By believing the fight is over, non-queer individuals have coopted Pride as just another street party. This has contributed to the increase of attendees at pride, but has also led to more debate around assertive political activism at pride. When looking at pride solely through this negligent perspective these activists are seen to be ruining the fun.
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Now, the aforementioned rights should not be taken for granted, but they should also not be used to claim that there is no reason left to fight for queer rights in this country. We have come a distance but still have a long way to go. Pride should be able to coexist as both a protest and a celebration.
Depending on when, where, or how you grew up or currently live, there may not be many chances for you to celebrate who you are, so letting people once a year shout their colours, express themselves fully, and party with others like them safely should continue to exist. We must not hold back happiness due to the suffering occurring in everyday life. That being said the happiness that exists now exists because of protest, and that they have worked, and people hope and believe protesting will continue to work causing more reason to celebrate in the future.
For the board of directors to cancel Pride is to say that they care more about the mental comfort of all non-LGBTQ2+ attendees and police officers than they do about actually celebrating and pushing forward the rights of the community that they are supposed to be representing. Cancelling the parade certainly was not the only choice in this situation, but it was certainly the wrong one.
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