Does a social media message ever get you riled up? I had a reaction to one today. It was like the Twitter bird was dragging its claws over a chalkboard. The tweet came from a federal government account called “Free to be me,” and the account bio says, “Government of Canada action on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression issues.”
1 month isn’t enough to celebrate Pride in Canada!— Free to be me (@freetobeme_ca) June 2, 2021
🌈🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ #PrideSeason takes place from June to September with local events across the country celebrating the resilience and spirit of #LGBTQ2 people in Canada. Follow us as we highlight Pride celebrations all summer long! pic.twitter.com/HY0uzXfO1Q
The message is upbeat, cheery and innocuous, right? I say, maybe.
June has traditionally been Pride month for quite some time. Current day celebrations arose out of protests against police brutality. Thousands of Canadian LGBTQ2S+ folks and allies attend Pride marches, parades and festivals every year. While many of them occur in June, several are scheduled throughout the summer and even into the winter.
Without fail, there are reactions from the homophobe crowd of “when is straight pride?” why do you need a whole month to display your perversion,” etc. What alarmed me about the reaction to this post was people referring to Pride season as hunting season. One comment said “you heard the man, open season on gay’s (sic). happy hunting.” I reported several tweets with these types of messages. A group attacked a man in Toronto on Saturday, calling him a faggot and homo before leaving him unconscious with a shattered face and other injuries. Open season.
My initial reaction to the tweet was over the messaging and the amount of government involvement in Pride. As a former Pride organizer and volunteer for many years, I realize how important the funding from the federal government is for Prides. Some festivals would not be possible without this support. Even with this in mind, on some level, it seemed to me the government is too involved, and this message which is intended to be supportive, is actually sending the wrong message. Opponents are seeing it as the government officially extending what was Pride Month in June to several months. This is not actually the case, and optics are important.
As one Facebook friend pointed out to me, we can be grateful our government does support Pride, and we don’t live in countries that suppress it. It was an exciting moment for me and many others when our Prime Minister marched at the front of Pride parades in Canada.
While Pride celebrations and Pride Month provide us with an opportunity to bring our whole selves onto the streets in solidarity, what I really want is strategic actions that make our streets safe 365 days a year, not just a focus on #Prideseason.
Wilbur Turner (he/him), who identifies as gay and queer, lives in Kelowna on the unceded traditional land of the syilx peoples and has contributed on many levels to LGBTQ2S rights, both locally and internationally.