Daniel A. Betts
TORONTO -- The young man known today as The Amazing Toronto Priderman attended his first Pride event in 2009, which he initially felt out-of-place at, since he was still going through stages of "finding himself".
Early in 2014 he began attending events in a Spider-Man costume, a character he identifies with as someone who struggles but always manages to pull-through regardless of the odds. Thinking it would be fun to attend in his Spider-Man costume when he participated in Pride that year, he donned his costume and was well-received by folks attending the event.
He posed for many photos, then following one picture-taking moment on the final day of Pride celebrations his photographer commented "more like Priderman, right?"
Since then the Toronto Priderman was born.
"From that moment, I knew I had to take this symbol and use it to shine light on the things important to me, to connect with the community, to raise awareness through entertainment and personal engagement,” said Priderman. “The future for Priderman is bright. I hope to shape him into the beacon for Toronto's expansive LGBTQ community.”
With Toronto’s first Pride Month starting on June 1, here is a brief history of Pride in the city.
• 1947: An Eaton's employee & part-time drag queen named John Herbert is arrested in Toronto for being dressed as a woman in public, and is sentenced to four months in a youth detention centre. His experience in jail inspired his 1967 play "Fortune and Men's Eyes," a landmark in the history of both LGBT literature and general theatre in Canada.
• 1964: Canada finally sees its first gay-positive organization, ASK, and its first gay magazines. ASK Newsletter, in Vancouver, and GAY, by the Gay Publishing Company of Toronto which evolved into GAY International - outselling American publications of a similar nature.
• 1968, December 21st: Canada's 15th Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced a bill that liberalized Canadian Laws on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception. On May 14th 1969, Canadian Law is amended to officially decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults. However, in a bizarre twist of events years later Pierre Trudeau's son - Canada's 23rd Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - appears in a video that surfaces on October 18th 2015 in which he's seen reciting the Shahada Prayer during his participation in the Maghrib Salah ritual in the Assuna-Annabawiyah Mosque testifying to his belief in Allah and commitment to the scriptures of the Islamic faith. (Hadith, Al Tirmidhi 1:152; "Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot [homosexuality], kill the doer and the receiver.")
• 1970: A series of picnics began at Hanlan's Point and Ward Island (on Toronto Island), organized by the University of Toronto Homophile Association, Toronto Gay Action Now, and the Community Homophile Association of Toronto.
• 1973, August: Canada's first Pride Week is celebrated, in various cities.
• 1976, July: two men are arrested in Toronto after kissing at Yonge & Bloor - prompting several gay activists to stage a "kiss-in" protest on the very same corner.
• 1981, February 5th: Four bathhouses in Toronto are raided by Toronto Police during "Operation Soap" and 106 officers arrest 286 people primarily in the Church & Wellesley area; this event is considered a crucial turning point in Canadian LGBT history as the resulting community mobilization of
3000+ people that took place to protest police conduct - likened by many to New York City's 1969 Stonewall Riots - was unprecedented in Canadian history. One of the protest marches during this mobilization is understood by most as being the firstever Toronto Pride event.
• 1984: During Jack Layton's first term as councilor, he proposed closing-off Church St and holding Pride Day there when previous arrangements using Grange Park became troubled. Layton conducted a poll of residents that showed support for the concept, and his motion was passed. Toronto Gay Pride is held on July 1st in Cawthra Park with thousands of celebrants. Church Street is closed for the event and people danced in the streets.
• 1991: Jack Layton fights to have Toronto proclaim "Gay & Lesbian Pride Day" at a time when the Liberal mayor Art Eggleton opposed it. Toronto proclaims Pride Day for the first time.
• June 26th, 2005: On the 25th anniversary of Toronto's Pride Week, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair becomes the first police chief in Toronto's history to participate in the parade.
• 2014, June: Toronto hosts the 2014 edition of WorldPride. http://www.dbiphotography.com/pride2014
• 2015, June 28th: A group of federal Conservative Party of Canada MPs and Provincial Ontario Progressive Party MPPs participate in Toronto's Pride Week & Parade for the first time in history.
With Pride Month just around the corner there will be plenty to do, and activities to take part in around the city. For more information on the festivities visit www.pridetoronto.com .