Inclusion through exclusion. This is the kind of distressed logic we are supposed to accept in the wake of Pride Toronto’s recent decision to officially ban all police floats and representation from this year’s pride parade- as per Black Lives Matter TO’s demands at last year’s parade.
You know, the parade that they were supposed to be honored guests at.
I want to be clear, not all of these “demands” seem unreasonable- most have to do with questions of funding and support for black and minority people within the LGBTQ community, the validity of which is not something I can speak to. I simply do not know enough about the funding and financial priorities of Pride TO to comment. That doesn’t mean, however, that police exclusion from the parade isn’t ludicrous, or that the way these demands were levied against Pride TO weren’t poorly timed and profoundly inconsiderate.
Let’s consider what Pride, at its core, is supposed to be about.
“Pride Toronto is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to bring people together to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of our community.
Uniting and empowering people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions, the annual Pride Toronto festival has become a major Canadian arts and cultural event and the largest Pride celebration in North America. Pride showcases Toronto on the world stage with diversity, inclusion and vibrant creativity.” Via Pride TO
Bringing people together. Celebrating history, courage, and diversity in the community. What part of this mandate condones the spreading of hostility, fear, and deepening the ongoing tensions between the LGBTQ community and the Toronto police? You’ll have to ask BLMTO about that.
According to BLMTO, police floats are “triggering,” and are a “symbolic representation of [their] violence, [their] oppression…” They don’t feel that the police should be considered a part of their pride.
But whose pride are we talking about exactly?
Although it’s many things to many people, pride is primarily a celebration of diversity and individuality. While it’s perfectly fine for black and minority communities to acknowledge that the police don’t represent a part of their pride, what about the many other members of the community for whom the police aren’t a constant aggressor, but an important part of their lives? I’m talking of course about people like Const. Chuck Krangle, a gay Toronto police officer and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He is one of the handful of LGBTQ Toronto police officers who will not be allowed to march in uniform at this year’s pride parade.
For the record, BLMTO has said they don’t mind if officers attend the parade, just not in uniform. That’s not really the point though, is it?
The fact is, Krangle views his being a police officer as just as much a legitimate part of his identity as his being a gay man- now he’s being told that it has no place in a festival that purports to care about the diversity and individuality of its community. This is a problem.
What does it mean for someone like Const. Krangle to know that his friends and colleagues in the Toronto police force- as well as the police force itself- wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community that he and other officers are a part of? I imagine it means a hell of a lot. Especially considering that this level of support has not traditionally been enjoyed by anyone in the gay community, let alone outwardly gay police officers.
The fact is that public opinion has constantly been shifting towards the correct side of this issue for some time now, and Toronto police are not trying to erase history, or their participation in the persecution of LGBTQ people in eras past. This is perhaps one of the most egregious hypocrisies of the BLMTO protest- their failure to recognize that the community that they are protesting are themselves acutely aware of the harms of targeted police violence.
The current involvement of Toronto police in the pride parade is a testament to the progress that has been made, not a sign of continued oppression. Their relationship to the community has changed. The participation of the police, much like the participation of the Prime Minister, has more to do with demonstrating an ongoing commitment to understanding and listening to the community than it does with simply wanting to have a parade float. Think about that for a second. Is there any good reason to question their desire to participate? Of course not.
Here’s a better question: why doesn’t anyone complain about the commercialization of pride? Of the TD Bank floats, and the Trojan condom floats that are using pride as an opportunity to sell shit. You want to talk about making sweeping generalizations about a community and capitalizing on oppression? Let’s talk about that opportunistic bullshit then.
Of course, that would mean we’d have to bring everybody in the LGBTQ community back into the conversation again, which BLMTO doesn’t want. It doesn’t support the divisive narrative they’ve constructed about the community “purposely trying to keep them out.”
The very fact that their demands were met with placation, rather than outright dismissal should tell you a lot about the kinds of people BLMTO was protesting against at last year’s pride parade. They are not only preaching to the converted- they are demonizing them. That is disgusting.
Maybe the fulfillment of some of those other demands will make BLMTO feel like the “privileged” members of LGBTQ community have finally acknowledged them, and will start to see them as allies instead of adversaries. I have serious doubts about that. Whether they realize it or not, banning police from the pride parade won’t do anything to further the social mobility of the members of the BLMTO movement. It will, ironically, make pride a slightly less inclusive place.