On Sunday June 28 the Toronto Pride Parade, the world’s third largest annual pride celebration, saw its first coordinated presence of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, the right-of-centre political parties of the country and the province respectively.
LGBTory Canada, armed with flyers, T-shirts, banners signs, and goodwill, set up a booth at the Toronto Pride street festival for three days, and marched in the annual parade.
This is the first official Tory delegation at this parade, ever. And while certain elected officials of the Tory caucuses have marched in other pride parades, the effort undertook by LGBTory was unprecedented in its scale and scope.
LGBTory was proud to have the march led by Conservative Minister Kellie Leitch and Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown.
They were joined by Progressive Conservative MPPs Lisa Macleod and Jack MacLaren, Conservative MP Bernard Trottier, and a group of 50 conservative activists eager to show a more progressive side of the party that the crowd had not seen before.
Also marching were four candidates for the upcoming federal election Karim Jivraj (University-Rosedale), Julian DiBatista (Toronto Centre), Tim Dutaud (Toronto Danforth), and, as of this writing, Sabrina Zuniga (Spadina-Fort York).
Thus far LGBTory Canada has been absolute success. Prior to Brown announcing he was going to attend on the Friday prior to the parade, we anticipated that perhaps only the 20 founding LGBTory Canada members would be marching.
There were much more, and the crowd was very happy to see us. There were a few critics in the crowd, showing off obscene hand gestures to our group, but there were far more cheers and screams when myself or another one of us proclaimed to the crowd “we’re here!” or “happy pride!”.
The same story goes for the responses to our info booth. Comically placed next to the Green Party and just a few feet away from the Liberals, our booth received good traffic.
People came up to us saying that they were big C Conservatives who wanted to join.
Some people who weren’t conservative remarked it was nice that we were finally at Pride, and others simply asked why we would be LGBT, and part of this party.
PC MPP Gila Martow (Thornhill) gave remarks on behalf of her caucus at the official pride flag raising at Queens Park the Monday before the parade, and Kathleen Wynne said in her speech before Martow’s that she was, “glad Gila Martow from the PC caucus was [here] because this is not something by partisan lines”.
The Rightwing Critics
It goes without saying that there were party members who were less than enthusiastic at the advent of LGBTory, and the PC leader at Toronto Pride.
In the weeks leading up to Pride, I posted the link to LGBTory.ca with the sign up list for the parade in a few Conservative networking groups, as did some other members.
The results were mixed, although mostly positive.
In between the comments like “great!”, “I’ll be there” “can’t make the parade but tonnes of respect and wishing you the best” and “nice to see the party going in this direction”, there was opposition.
The first post I saw read “I don’t mean this in a hateful way, but I am disappointed in the party for this”.
Others that followed were less kind in nature. One ignoramus interpreted the party’s presence at Pride as an endorsement of the public nudity that goes during the week (which I condemn personally; those people should be arrested).
The worst I’ve seen so far is the hateful Facebook post written by Nick Vandergragt, a CFRA radio host, posted Sunday evening. He said he wanted to toss Macleod and MacLaren “out of the building” for attending Pride. Even still, Macleod has since been bombarded by dozens of supportive Twitter users commending her for attending Pride, and representing her Ottawa-area constituency.
The Leftwing Critics
This where it gets bizarre. We knew that the left would not be happy that people who identify as LGBT were also identifying with the Conservatives.
LGBT are typically on the left-of-centre. Their place is solidified in every student government, labour union, and the left-wing political parties that place a special emphasis on their queer membership.
We aim to erode this leftwing monopoly over tolerance, LGBT rights, and queer people in general, and it has been ticking off the lefties.
On Twitter mostly, and also at our info booth, the most common opposition to LGBTory Canada’s existence is the fact that we are “appropriating” the T in LGBT and committing “trans-erasure” by adding the “Tory” part.
Despite the support I have seen from trans members and non-members towards our group, some “social justice warriors” call us hateful.
But this is how I know we’re doing the right thing.
While these people obsess over a letter, our party is actually using Canada’s voice on the world stage to bring attention to the worst acts of homophobia and transphobia in the world. ISIL terrorists are throwing gays off of roofs, and all these pathetic people want to do is freak out over a letter being used as a double entendre.
I admit it: I was wrong about Patrick Brown.
During the leadership race, I campaigned for his rival, the more centrist-leaning candidate Christine Elliot.
I commend Patrick Brown’s decision to attend Pride and lead the first delegation of Tories through the downtown parade.
Despite the voices in the party who have, and will voice, their disapproval, Brown is demonstrating an understanding that all of Ontario matters, including the LGBT community.
And while the Ontario Liberals, standing on how ever much moral authority one can have with a party leader under four separate OPP investigations, will deride Brown’s record on LGBT issues (Ontario Young Liberals have already published derisive memes) the facts stand for themselves: there now exists visible LGBT conservatives who will support him, and he did in fact lead the first Tory presence in Canada’s largest pride parade.
Both our presence at Pride and our presence in conservative Facebook groups have received by far more positive support than negative derision.
While critics like to attack the right, especially prime minister Harper, of “Americanizing” Canadian politics, it is the left that attempts to paint Canada’s rightwing as homophobic and intolerant.
LGBTory is a group of PC and CPC party members who simply want to challenge these ridiculous notions that all gays are leftwing, that conservatives are intolerant, and that we do not exist.
Judging by our presence at Pride and the reaction, I would say we are off to a good start. We are growing a very niche movement, and are elated at the enthusiasm we’ve seen thus far.
By Willem Hart , a founding member of LGBTory Canada, and president of Campus Conservatives York University.
Views expressed above represent those of the author, and in no way represent those of LGBTory Canada, The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, nor the Conservative Party of Canada.
Source: Landmark Report