Reflections on an online Pride

July 14, 2020

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Urban Strategies recently gathered (virtually) to reflect on this year’s Pride month, which has been markedly different from years past. The conversation between our Strategists touched on three broad themes, including Pride in the time of COVID and the relationship between Pride and anti-Black racism.

Pride as Both a Celebration and Protest

Pride 2020 meant canceled parades and street parties. However, it also saw a re-emergence of the very roots of Pride, expressed through the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the virtual Pride events which leaned heavily on topics of intersectionality and activism.

Our Strategists agreed that the most impactful Pride events have been those that combined both these elements, that are both fighting for and celebrating pride in the face of something.

We also considered the celebratory aspects of Pride to be particularly important venues for introducing those from more conservative environments to the LGBTQ+ community. This celebration of difference in public space, combined with corporate sponsorship, was seen as a gateway drug into mainstreaming what were once considered radical ideas, and therefore increasing understanding and acceptance. At the same time, it was agreed that Pride needs to maintain its activist roots, to continue expanding the tent of acceptance and rights.

The Role of Public Space

Public space is often the site for such celebration and protest. But the risks taken to occupy public space are felt differently among groups. As brought to the forefront by the BLM movement and the Bruce McArthur case, not everyone is equally protected in our “safe spaces”, including in the Church-Wellesley Village.

Pride was said to be a reaction to having to hide one’s identity in public. In the time of COVID when many of us are confined to our homes, the reprieve from hetero-normative spaces offered by Pride events and gay villages may have been less needed by members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Emergence of New Safe Spaces

Toronto is seeing more safe spaces emerge in relation to an intersection of identities, including a proliferation of racialized queer events in the suburbs. These spaces are additive, rather than replacements for the more “mainstream” Pride events downtown.

These new spaces have emerged from the fact that there has historically been exclusion within the Pride movement, in which a sub-section of members (those who fit in a particular box) decide whose interest and what issues get advanced, and whose do not.


And to end off, a few shoutouts of places that were seen to successfully combine celebration of identity and rights-seeking, and which have left a lasting impression on our Strategists. So, kudos!

  • Newmarket Pride
  • Thunder Bay Pride
  • Winnipeg’s BLM March

By Candace Safonovs

Banner image credit: Pride Toronto