For the festive Pride celebrations that we have come to know and love today, we must thank the queer and trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour who came before us, and honour their legacy of resistance through which Pride was born.
Pride, as we know it, began as trans and queer uprisings and riots throughout the 20th century. It is because of the brave moments of resistance to hateful, transphobic and queerphobic laws that we can gather as a community and celebrate our beautiful 2SLGBTQ+ selves. Pride has always been political!
Cooper’s Do-Nuts & Compton Cafeteria Riots
May 1959: Cooper’s Do-Nut’s was a café on Main Street in LA. Since laws at the time empowered police to arrest anyone whose gender presentation did not match the gender detailed on their government ID, police routinely harassed 2SLGBTQ+ customers here, as the café was sandwiched between 2 gay bars and had a lot of trans folks and drag queens as customers. On the day of the riot, police entered the cafe and asked patrons for ID, and then attempted to arrest five patrons. Those arrested protested the lack of room in the police car, onlookers began throwing coffee, cups, and trash at the police until the police fled without taking the people they had piled into their car. The community began rioting in the streets, resulting in the area being blocked off for the entire night.
August 1966: Transphobic and homophobic laws in San Francisco escalated a culture of police harassment and routine raids in queer-friendly establishments. As one of the only places it was safe for trans and gender non-conforming folks to gather, Compton’s Cafeteria was a popular hangout. In the summer of 1966 the police arrested a trans woman at Compton’s Cafeteria, and she resisted by throwing coffee at a police officer. In support, drag queens and other folks who had been hanging out at Compton’s Cafeteria at the time of the arrest poured into the streets, defending themselves with their high heels and heavy bags, until the police retreated.
On June 29th, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar known to be frequented by Trans folks and Queens. At the time, there were anti-cross dressing laws on the books in New York and many similar raids had happened where patrons would be lined up and arrested if they were not wearing at last three articles of clothing that were associated with the perceived gender of each person. These original raids were very much about gender self-determination, gender freedom, and gender policing.
Although the folks at Stonewall had experienced many raids and assaults by police, that night they fought back. It was Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman of color, who initiated the resistance by defending herself with physical force. Riots broke out that lasted for three days. When they ended, Marsha P. and close friend Sylvia Rivera, got to work. That started STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Under this name, they initiated marches, rallies, events and support work for other Trans folks facing police, state, and street level oppression. Out of this grew the inspiration for the modern Pride events.
However, despite their contribution to the liberation movement, Trans women (especially trans women of color) were quickly pushed out of the community. Only four years after the initial riots, Sylvia Rivera had to fight her way onto the stage at a gay liberation rally. She was told by the organizers that she did not represent the pride movement. She took the mic anyway and spoke about the Stonewall Inn riots, about being arrested and assaulted by the police, and warned us that we should never allow the liberation movement to become a movement just for the white middle class cis population. She was booed off stage. It was that same year that liberation activities were moved downtown closer to the gay bars which were looking for looking for the business after marches and rallies. In 1974, the movement was renamed from “liberation” to “gay pride.” This shift was linked to the corporatization of queer celebrations, it also contributed to the erasure of trans people from the movement.
Trans women of color have been at the forefront of 2SLGBTQ+ liberation work. It is because of Trans activists such as Marsha P. and Sylvia that our liberation movements began in the first place. And this is something can we can never lose sight of. We need to remember the truth of their lives and the truth of their struggle as we move forward with organizing in our own community.
Olympic Police and Toronto Bathhouse Raids
In 1976 the RCMP worked with the city of Montréal to raid queer spaces and arrest hundreds of gay men and crackdown on gay nightlife in preparation for the 1976 Olympics, and then again in 1977 the police raided the Truxx bar. Revolts in the streets, organized by Montreal’s queer and trans community, against these 2 violent surges of police surveillance and force led to Québec enacting sexual orientation protection in late 1977. This resistance continued in Toronto with the mass response to the 1981 bath raids which at that point were the largest mass arrests since 1970. It was this resistance that provided the context for the celebration of Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, which took place in June to honour the Stonewall riot in NYC. The events of this first Toronto Pride were both a celebration and very political as folks stopped in front of the Headquarters of the 52 Division of the Police (which had carried out the bath raids) chanting “Fuck You 52!”
BLM & Toronto Pride 2016
In 2016, alongside Indigenous activists, Black Lives Matter Toronto staged a protest at Toronto Pride, stalling the parade to bring attention to the systemic racism and colonialism thriving within the internal structure of Toronto Pride. BLM offered Toronto Pride a list of demands including a commitment to increase Black and Indigenous representation among Pride Toronto staff, to remove police floats from the Pride parade, and to prioritize the hiring of black trans-women and Indigenous people.
“‘As a group, we're often told that racism ‘doesn't exist’ in Canada like it does in the States,’ Black Lives Matter Vancouver organizers told BuzzFeed News in a statement. ‘This is exactly the problem. Canada is inherently racist. It is a state built on colonization and the continued oppression and disenfranchisement of Indigenous people’” (Buzzfeed, 2016).
Pride has always been political. It is through remembering and honouring these histories that we will be able to hope for a future where liberatory queer and trans freedom can exist.
(please note, this is not a comprehensive history of Pride or queer activism, for more info check out these resources: Making Gay History (podcast), Happy Birthday Marsha (film), Queer Indigenous Studies (book), The AIDS Memorial (Instagram Account), Quist App Resource list (app/website), Queer Story (Toronto Queer walking tour/online resource), article posted by Them.)
Brantford Pride History
A group, called The Bridge, formed to promote the presence of the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Brantford.
Brantford Pride developed out of The Bridge. Brantford Pride was formed by community members and allies who aimed to bring awareness of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and celebrate acceptance. Since our origin, Brantford Pride’s aims have grown beyond celebrating acceptance to include advocating for futurity and honouring Pride’s political roots. We are committed to amplifying the voices and needs of those who are most marginalized within our community and working towards a safe, sustainable and intersectional future.
The Bridge and Brantford Pride organized the first annual Pride Flag raising ceremony in Brantford, at City Hall. From then on, the third week of June has come to be known as Brantford Pride Week.
In 2014, Brantford Pride was proud to introduce the Youth Pride Committee, which is a social group for 2SLGBTQ+ youth for ages 12 to 24.
Originally, Pride Week events were limited to a flag raising, the pride walk, and celebration in Mohawk Park. Since 2015, the Brantford Pride Committee has been working to ensure that Pride Week is in fact a week’s worth of exciting, community-led, 2SLGBTQ+ programming!
2016 marked a significant growth in event turnout. That year, 200 people were present at the flag raising, just days after the tragic and widely discussed Pulse nightclub attack. Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, was frequented by predominately Latinx individuals. 49 individuals lost their lives, reminding us that the intersects of racism, homophobia and transphobia are just as prominent as they were on those first days at Stonewall. In 2016, Brantford also saw the creation of the “Brantford Advocacy Transgender Alliance” and “Gender Journey”; a peer support group for transgender people.
In November (for Trans Day of Remembrance), the Trans Pride Flag was raised at City Hall for the very first time in Brantford