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An Insider’s Guide to Toronto Pride

How to spend the upcoming Pride weekend, according to five Toronto queer creatives.

This upcoming Sunday marks Toronto’s annual Pride parade, a legendary event where queer people flock from all over Canada to bask in the incredible positive energy radiating through the city. As one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, Toronto’s Pride weekend schedule is packed with everything from sweaty underground dance parties to outdoor drag shows, and just like any other hot ticket event, it can be hard to decide which spaces and events are most worthy of your time. To help narrow down the options, we consulted five Toronto queer creatives and longtime Pride-goers on how they’ll be spending the upcoming weekend. Here’s what they had to say.

Michael Zoffranieri: Fashion Designer, ZOFF

Pronouns: He/him

Photography by Victor Rusu

What I love about Toronto Pride.

Pride means community: the people we get to call family, and how we get to celebrate our love for ourselves and for each other, together.

Why it’s important for me to participate.

Pride is important for celebration, but moreso being resistant to things that affect LGBTQ2SA+ folks. We will not stand for discrimination, hate, and hurt. As people of this world, we must collectively push for better treatment of human life. We must resist values that are hurtful, and heal together.

The events I’m looking forward to this year.

I’m looking forward to the Green Space Festival, the outdoor party at the 519 (519 Church St.) that goes all weekend, being with my chosen and bio family, and the memories to be made.

My best advice for conquering Pride weekend.

Wear whatever you want! Keep backpacks to a minimum, or opt for a waist pack/cross body bag. Have someone to be your touchstone, and be someone’s touchstone: safety is about letting people know where you are. Head to Smith for a Saint Germain and Prosecco cocktail: just north of Wellesley and Church, it’s a great place to stop in for a cocktail or brunch or both. For a bite, Mengrai Thai is an awesome place just steps away from Church. It’s a short walk from the Village, and a wonderful place to spend time with loved ones. For veg/vegan/kosher friends: Rosalinda (Richmond and York) is a great place for fresh Mexican, and a cocktail… Classic, or otherwise for those who don’t indulge in alcohol.

Gigi Gorgeous: Activist, Author & Digital Creator (and Grand Marshall of Toronto’s 2019 Pride parade!)

Pronouns: She/her

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What I love about Toronto Pride.

Toronto is where I experienced my first Pride when I was a teenager, it’s my hometown and the best city in the world. Pride in Toronto is my favorite time of year. Everyone comes together and celebrates, and there is so much pride here in the community. It’s really special.

Why it’s important for me to participate.

To me, Pride means coming together,  supporting each other, embracing our differences and celebrating. We have come so far in the last 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, but we still have a lot of work to do to achieve full equality in the world. It is such an honour and a privilege to be able to participate in Pride Toronto and to be the Grand Marshal.

The events I’m looking forward to this year.

All of it! Every event and party and rally is so amazing and inspiring. This year, I am specifically looking forward to the Trans March at 3pm on June 21st.

My best advice for conquering Pride weekend.

Wear comfortable shoes, hydrate, and have the best time! Most importantly, remember what Pride means. It isn’t just about the parties. It’s about how far we have come as a community and honoring those who have fought before us to pave the way for us to live our lives freely and openly. And don’t forget to bring the looks! Stay gorgeous and happy pride, everyone!

 

Rachel Romu, Musician/Model

Pronouns: (They/them)

What I love about Toronto Pride.

The community. Personally, it’s a space in which all facets of myself can exist openly and freely, without question. This makes room for vulnerability, meaningful connections, and a deeper understanding of one another.

Why it’s important for me to participate.

Because my disability is visible, it influences how I move through the world and am perceived by others; conversely, my identity as a queer person often exists in silence. Participating is owning that part of me and showing that part of me.

What Pride means to me.

It means protest. It means discarding social conventions. It means freedom. It means acknowledging the trans women of colour who spearheaded the movements that have made it so LGBTQ2SIA+ folks have the rights we do (though there is still a ways to go).

The events I’m looking forward to this year.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and use a mixture of mobility aids to get around, so it’s important to me to that Pride events prioritize accessibility. In accessible queer spaces, I feel that all parts of me are welcomed, free, and safe. On Friday June 21st, I’ll be heading to the Trans March and show where T. Thomason (winner of The Launch), and Babia Majora and Fluffy Soufflé of F*CK SHT UP Trans & Non-Binary Cabaret will be performing. This stage is QTPOC focused which I personally think is super amazing due to Pride’s origins. Also, having played the first ever trans stage last year at Pride as a non-binary person was meaningful as heck and I am so happy to see this stage’s growth!

Also, Come As You Are, an art show celebrating queer artists of colour taking place on until June 22nd. The space is not accessible but the show highlight individuals who have pride in navigating their identity, through their interpretations of art.

My best advice for conquering Pride weekend.

Wear sunscreen & re-apply! Drink more water than you think you need (also soda water to replenish salts you sweat out!) It’s okay to take breaks, rest as needed, and stay in if it would be self-care. It’s okay to not go at all, your identity is still valid regardless of whether you are able to participate

 

Sebastiano Bazzichetto: PhD and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Yellow Gloves

Pronouns: He/him or His Lordship

What I love about Toronto Pride.

In my view, to the LGBTQ2 community Pride is – or should be – like Christmas: it is not important what you do or where, but rather with whom you spend your time. Hence, like at Christmas, to me it is vital to celebrate Pride with my queer family: friends, allies, acolytes and lovers. And in Toronto this is not a hard task: we live after all in one of the queerest cities I’ve ever resided in my life!

 

Why it’s important for me to participate.

It is a vibrant moment to celebrate life, diversity and cultural understanding. To come together as a community that is part of a larger community, but still presents some peculiar factors and features, besides having its own particular history of protests, sexual revolutions and epidemics and so forth.



The events I’m looking forward to this year.

I mostly like big events in large venues, where you can meet a lot of new people and share your joy and personal experience as an LGBTQ2 individual. I am very fond of the final parade: a multifarious display of colours, beyond the rainbow, transcending our mortal existence, aiming for a higher universal value in terms of human beings.

I’ll join some of the events organized by the Alternative Pride, its DIY dance garden-themed party in a gallery and the Backdoor Toronto Pride Villa Party in a secret location. For sure, I won’t miss the Green Space Festival, this year with its TreeHouse circuit party at the CNE Bandshell. And of course, my Prunch: for many years now, I have hosted a brunch for Pride (therefore Prunch), inviting friends to get together (and meet some like-minded ”strangers“), lounge and nibble before heading to the parade on Church. To round out my pride month, I’ll join the crowd at Christie Pits, to watch “Rafiki,” lying on the grass under the stars on June 30.

 

My best advice for conquering Pride weekend.

It’s gonna be hot and sunny this year: a nice straw hat is the best companion for a long afternoon watching the parade!

The Queen Priyanka: Drag Queen

Pronouns: She/her

What I love about Toronto Pride.

What I love most about Toronto Pride is the celebration of a fight that we’re all fighting. It’s super hard to be part of the LGBTQ+ community no matter how included you are. There is always a fight and always someone to educate. I love that Toronto Pride is constantly educating their crowds and really celebrating what it’s like to live your truth

Why it’s important for me to participate.
Drag Queens are the heartbeat of Pride. Without Drag Queens Pride would NOT be the same. It’s important me to give everyone a giant hug who may not feel included where they come from.

What Pride means to me.
Pride to me means living your truth. The first time I ever went to pride is when I really felt like I was being who I was born to be.

The events I’m looking forward to this year.
STARRY NIGHT! It’s at the 519 and it’s incredible. It is the Super Bowl of Drag with the top of the top drag queens performing in this outdoor festival. It’s incredible. I’m looking forward to Drag Ball at Yonge and Dundas Square, Final Play at Yonge and Dundas Square and also all the night shows at Crews & Tangos. They are so much fun!

My best advice for conquering Pride weekend.
Drink a lot …of alcohol. haha kidding. Well I’m not. Pride is an escape – treat it like being on an all-inclusive vacation and just let loose and have fun. My tips are: respect your entertainers, drink lots of water, no matter how tired you are don’t complain because it brings the party around you down, and when you’re DONE go home and sleep. Don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t want to do. Oh! And if you see me tell me I’m pretty.