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article imagePride Week begins in Toronto but has anything changed? Special

By KJ Mullins     Jun 26, 2010 in World
Toronto Pride is hosting Pride Week June 25 to July 4 in the Ontario capital. The week started off with an official launch party for media and VIP's at Woody's Friday evening.
2010 is the 30th year that Pride Week has been in Toronto. For 15 years the Dyke March, one of the largest women's events in Canada, has been a part of that tradition.
From humble beginnings Toronto's Pride Week is the largest event of its kind in North America and the third largest Pride event in the world.
Most of this year's activities will begin on June 30 ending on July 4 when the Pride Parade takes place. Last year's media reports put the number of people lining the streets to watch the parade at close to a million.
There is no question that Pride Toronto and the annual Pride Week has changed Toronto's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-spirited and allies community.
While Toronto is much more tolerant today than 30 years ago gay bashing still takes place. One reporter said tonight that Toronto police told him that gay bashing is up this year.
Youth still are bullied in schools in Toronto, from taunts to physical violence to death threats. Toronto is one of two places in North America that does offer a safe haven in the form of an alternative school for queer youth. This week the Triangle Program graduated 10 of their student body in a moving ceremony where the entire school body of 43 were celebrated.
Same-sex marriage is not uncommon in Toronto. It has come along way from when Rev. Brent Hawkes had to don a bullet-proof vest to wed Kevin Bourassa to Joe Varnell, and Elaine Vautour to Anne Vautour on January 14, 2001.
Today gay men in Toronto have a number of clubs devoted to them. Their female counterparts however only have one bar devoted to them according to some of the women at Woody's.
The older members at the event Friday said that the youth don't understand their history and the strides that have been gained by the 'veterans'. For the youth it is a safer Toronto but that safety came from the hard work of groups like Toronto Pride and the men and women who fought for their freedoms.
One young man, a student in Toronto from Chile, said that he loves the atmosphere and the freedom that Toronto has compared to his homeland.
"I can dress how I want, be who I am and I am safe. I am free to be the real me. I love Toronto."
His words echo many that fill the city during this week.
"I am free to be the real me."
Since 1969 when then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau helped in decriminalizing homosexual acts for consenting adults over 21 in Canada saying that "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation" Toronto and the world has changed dramatically. Tolerance of each person's differences is becoming the norm. There is still work to be done but accomplishments are many. Good job Toronto. Let's get ready to party.
More about Pride toronto, Pride week, Lesbians
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