Since attending his first pride, Keita has been grateful for the annual event to celebrate his identity.
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“It’s not like being in Africa, we don’t (really) have LGBTQ2 rights there… and even in the small town of Edmonton, (Pride) is not mainstream,” he said.
” (Pride) in Toronto connected me to my art, with people from my industry … having no family here, the community has become a family to me.
Keita is disappointed that pride is being cancelled this year, but he is pleased to see that this is happening at a time of increased discourse around anti-black racism—something he experienced first-hand in the LGBTQ2 community.
“My voice is very important, and I feel like that’s what I’m going to do with it — keep talking to people (about anti-black racism) as much as I can,” Keita said.
“And this year is an opportunity to talk, so I’m going to talk as much as I can.”
As he can’t perform in person right now, Keita has moved her drag shows online into what he calls “Women Crush Wednesday.”
Every Wednesday, Keita will live on Instagram with special guests “who inspire her,” many of whom are also black drag queens. He hopes the program will help raise the voices of minorities in the community.
“I want to bring the blacks (on the show) so they can have that platform,” Keita said.
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For years, Toronto resident Andrew Stewart saw Pride as a “great party.” However, he admits that this was before he really understood his privilege as a gay white man.
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Stewart, 37, came out when he was 13 to “accept, support and understand parents,” and he witnessed his first pride when he was 18.
“I have traveled the world to go to pride parties and events in the United States, Europe and even Israel with my friends,” Stewart said.
“It was an event to plan and hope for.”
He now realizes that he was extremely privileged to feel so confident walking the streets and celebrating his identity.
“I was privileged and it wasn’t controlled,” Stewart said. “E had seen myself reflected in society … since I was 13 years old. I didn’t know any different.
Since then, he has worked with local advocacy groups to learn more about his privilege and anti-black racism within the LGBTQ2 community.
Even though Pride is canceled this year, Stewart says he will take advantage of this time to stand with his black peers. He hopes that this time he can allow for more important discussions on racism and equality in Canada.
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“This year, I’m with my LGBTQ (black) community and use my privilege to amplify their stories so that more people can be educated on the massive issues of racism in our community and in law enforcement,” he said.
“I no longer feel disconnected from the community, because (it) is no longer just a safe physical space, it’s a collective voice that can be amplified everywhere that can be amplified by less conventional forms,” Stewart said.
“There may not be a parade, but I very much hope there is a protest. And you can count on me to be there.
That this broader conversation about anti-black racism continues during the month when pride usually occurs is entirely appropriate, said Jen Gilbert, an education professor at York University who specializes in LGBTQ2 issues.
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“Pride began as a protest against police violence, led by black and racialized trans women,” Gilbert said.
“While we may be missing the parade and the holidays, there is a way in which the current protests around the world against police violence have a lot to do with what Pride stands for.”
“It started as a protest and continues to be a protest.”
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Of course, Gilbert predicts that the cancellation of Pride will be upsetting, especially for new young people in the community.
“There’s something really assertive about coming to a big parade with hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom identify as LGBTQ2 or are very supportive,” Gilbert said.
“Especially if you live in a context where you don’t have access to other LGBTQ2 people, I’m sure it’s amazing.”
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However, Gilbert is pleased to see that organizations and events are finding new ways to connect online.
« It’s disappointing, (but) we’re in a public health crisis that forces us to temporarily change our behaviour, and we want to protect ourselves from each other,” Gilbert said.
“There are many ways in which arts organizations, in particular, have been very creative in responding and doing things they would not have been driven to do (without the pandemic). We will miss the party, but I think the other (events) that are offered are compensation.
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