Millions of people from all over the world will line the streets of downtown Toronto on June 29 for World Pride.
Toronto will be the first WorldPride celebration to be held in North America
From waving rainbows, to drag performances, to the signature TD bank dancers – this year’s Pride will go down in history.
Ontario colleges and universities will be joining in the celebrations, with some more present than others.
Andrew Tibbetts, a counselor at Humber who works with the college’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee, said Humber has been involved in Pride before but not in recent years. The parade happens over the summer so coming together as a school is difficult.
“It’s probably the worst time of year for us to pull something together…but this year in particular because it’s World Pride, we really wanted to step up our game and get involved,” he said.
Humber has hired a work-study student to take the lead.
Suzanne Saliba, a second year student of Humber’s social service worker Program, is leading the initiative while interning with the Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee.
Saliba said they are working on their presence and trying to raise awareness among new students, or those looking for connections to the LGBT community.
“We are in the parade, the World Pride parade, and we will be representing Humber. We’re going to have signs and a banner and we’re hoping to get as many students as possible,” she said.
“It’s a really good way for students to attend the parade as a group…and of course the energy is going to be amazing. I’m really hoping that we have allies and people that maybe haven’t had that kind of experience, in addition to LGBTQ students and staff,” said Saliba.
York University is one post-secondary institution in Toronto that has been very involved in the Pride parade.
Suzanne Carte, assistant curator at the Art Gallery of York University, said for the past five years they’ve been working with the Pride committee at York in coordination with World Pride.
They take part in the community fair and have a float in the parade, which is produced by local artists in coalition with the art gallery. Carte said they work with two organizations, one being the York Federation of Students, and the other called TBLGay.
“Once we start getting people amped up for the parade, we have a good amount of volunteers for both the community fair booth…and we usually have a packed trailer for the parade itself. So much so that we usually have to take turns dancing on the trailer,” she said.
Back at Humber, fundraisers will be held, as well as various departments throughout Humber will financially support the college’s involvement in Toronto Pride.
“The college has been really supportive of us… we’ve been really lucky that way that we have so many people on our side,” said Saliba.
Tibbetts has been in the parade a few times with his kids, marching with the Rainbow Parenting Network.
“It’s a giant party, and the feeling is very celebratory. It’s not just for gay people, it’s for bi-(sexual) people, it’s for trans people, it’s also for straight allies…so Humber is involved in that too. We are queer people but we’re also straight allies, so we want to stand up and make that known too,” he said.
Tibbetts said the location of a school makes a difference in their participation in Toronto Pride.
“Typically queer people have often been very urbanized, and that is because cities are generally places that people move to, to get away from somewhere else,” he said. “And the fact is, many gay and lesbian, bi and trans people aren’t welcome in their smaller communities.”
Despite its distance from the downtown core, Tibbetts encourages the LGBT community to explore the opportunities Humber has to offer.
“We are still a great school and there are lots of programs here that LGBT students would like to be in,” said Tibbetts.
Having a presence in the Pride parade also helps encourage enrolment.
“We do want to have as many students as possible because they definitely bring their financial resources,” Tibbetts said. “But they also bring their minds, and we get a busy, wonderful, hotbed of thinking and talking and questioning.”
Carte said post-secondary school involvement in Toronto Pride is an opportunity for students to test out their voice in a public forum.
“Pride is not only a celebration, but I think it also goes back to the roots of ‘we demand,’ and I think that in demanding equal rights,” she said.
“That’s what Toronto is built out of,” said Carte.