Pride parade: Music, vibrant colours transform downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto was given a jolt of extra colour on Sunday as more than 1 million people, some toting rainbow flags, marched the city’s streets for the 33rd annual Pride Parade.
Crowds of revellers lined the parade route behind barricades as they cheered on participants -- many of them wearing colourful and festive outfits that have become a hallmark of the internationally renowned parade.
Premier Kathleen Wynne marched the parade route alongside a host of other political leaders and colourful characters.
The first openly gay premier dodged water guns and Frisbees as supporters chanted her name. Participants also carried fun placards -- such as “50 shades of gay” -- in support of Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.
Similar to marches held in New York, Madrid, Paris and Dublin, Toronto’s parade is a blend of celebration and demonstration.
Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada, a national advocacy group, said that despite the advances made in recent years, total acceptance is still something many people in the gay community are still fighting for.
“Unless we change that philosophy and that way of thinking starting at a very young age, we’re never going to break down these homophobic stigmatization that currently exists in our society,” Kennedy told CTV Toronto.
The event also attracted groups and individuals fighting for gay rights in different parts of the world, such as Iran, where homosexuality is considered a crime.
“(Acceptance) will happen. Maybe not in my life but it will happen,” said Arsham Parsi, the executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees.
Parsi fled Iran in 2005 due to fears of “possible execution under Iran’s harsh Islamic legal code.”
“Now living in a safe country, I still consider myself first and foremost an Iranian. I can never forget that I am in exile due to my own sexual orientation,” explains Parsi on his website.
Sunday’s event comes less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), giving spouses in sex-sex unions a full range of benefits.
The challenge to the federal U.S. legislation was spearheaded by Edith Windsor, a New Yorker who married her longtime partner Thea Spyer six years ago in Toronto, where same-sex marriage has been legal for close to a decade. Windsor’s marriage was recognized by New York state, but not by the federal government.
The landmark ruling was something many festival-goers were celebrating. “I am excited because now I can get married in Disney World, and Hawaii, and Alaska, and Montana,” Phillipe Lauren said. “I have options and options are good.”
Sunday's parade marked the culmination of the city's annual Pride Week and began shortly after 2 p.m. in Toronto's downtown Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, with the majority of the parade marching down Yonge Street. This year’s theme was “SUPERQUEER.’
Next year, Toronto will host the World Pride parade. The event has been held in a number of cities including Rome, Jerusalem and London.