This year's Pride Month will focus on AIDS activism, Pride Toronto announced Tuesday.
"The 2018 creative reflects the change our community is undergoing, how deeply impacted the community has been by loss, both in the past and now," the group wrote in a news release. "This year we focus on the continued struggle — against the criminalization and stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS —and honour those who took action to change their medical, social and political circumstances."
In a phone interview with the Star Tuesday, Pride executive director Olivia Nuamah said that Pride will be putting on fundraising events in honour of AIDS Activism, including a brunch. At the end of this year's parade, there will be a procession intended to honour, "not only those we've lost through AIDS, but those we've lost recently," said Nuamah, referring to the men allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur.
While the theme of loss is mournful, Nuamah noted that Pride is unique for its roots as a protest movement: "It didn't start off as a celebration; it kind of became that, as acceptance grew," she said. "It is very easy for the community to remember a time when it was the subject of vilification, and, in this case, what ends up happening is you come together to reinforce the fact that as a community you are strong."
The string of disappearances in the Gay Village, followed by news of an investigation into alleged serial killer, rocked the LGBTQ community.
"We're trying to understand exactly what it means for our community moving forward, and that certainly involves us having to recognize that we are, yet again, in a sort of semi-unique place, in that we are trying to figure out such traumatizing loss, particularly when it's targeted at you as a community, whether it be from somebody inside or outside the community," she said. (Nuamah noted that there is a victimization of those in the LGBTQ community, particularly men of colour and those that don't live openly.)
"These are new narratives in relation to the communities that we're looking at, and, so we're trying to look into the future in relation to how we deal with these many varied voices."
Friends, family and the public are being invited to participate in this procession. Nuamah said that Pride volunteers would be wearing black shirts in mourning. The festival's theme will highlight loss, and will work with HIV and AIDS organizations.
"We're trying really hard in every aspect of the festival where we can (to stress) that we're highlighting the fact that we're focused on loss this year, not only because of HIV and AIDS, but because of what's happening right now," Nuamah said.
People suffering from AIDS faced heavy stigmatization in the early days of the crisis, and that stigmatization continues today, Nuamah said. "We continue to have quite a significant issue with the criminalization of HIV. We have recently taken the position that, if HIV is undetectable as a result of its transmitability, people should not be prosecuted for not disclosing the fact that they are HIV-positive," Nuamah said.
She pointed to the blood ban, which prohibits gay men from participating in blood or organ donation, as an example of this continued stigmatization. How HIV and AIDS are treated in law "continues to perpetuate a stigmatization that we are working to fight against," Nuamah said.
The third annual Pride Month will begin on June 1 with a flag-raising at Toronto city hall. This year's festival will take place from June 22 to 24.
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