June marks the beginning of Pride Season – a time of community, education, and of course, celebration.
But the story of Pride is so much bigger than rainbows and parades. It’s important to remember that Pride started as a riot – a rebellion against the discrimination of Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) people. And this community continues to be at the forefront of the civil rights and social movements today.
In Canada, one of the defining moments of the 2SLGBTQIA+ liberation was the raid of four bathhouses in Toronto 40 years ago, in 1981. Patrons were subjected to aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse about their sexuality by the police. By the end of the night, 300 people were charged, making it the largest single arrest in Toronto’s history at the time. The raids marked a turning point for Toronto’s gay community. They led to protests and signalled that people were no longer going to accept the status quo from the police, media, and the public. Today, Toronto hosts one of North America’s largest Pride events.