Why I supported Black Lives Matter interrupting Gay Pride

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement brought the Toronto LGBT Pride Parade to a halt for 30 minutes in a protest that only ended after a list of demands was met.

There was a lot of hubbub about this on social media last night. Conservatives saying “see how liberals eat their own!” Gay people talking about how terrible it is for BLM to be so rude and not show unity. People getting very bent out of shape.

So I did something that doesn’t seem to happen a lot on social media. Before I reacted, I read some local coverage of the event, and I reached out to friends of mine who attended Toronto Pride, and to BLM-Toronto. I politely asked them to give me some context, and some backstory, about what was going on.

This is what I’ve been able to gather from people who were actually involved. Black Lives Matter didn’t consult with the organizers of Toronto Pride ahead of time, because they wanted it to be a dramatic and confrontational display. However, the very liberal and open-minded organizers of Toronto Pride understood that, and didn’t really have a problem with BLM having their moment and their voice. The parade was paused for all of 30 minutes, and continued without any harm or damage done. In the end, nobody was really “outraged” except people who weren’t there.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:

1) Gay Pride is literally a celebration and remembrance of a RIOT.

It’s a bit disingenuous to get all bent out of shape that an activist group would “disrupt” Gay Pride. It’s worth remembering from a historical context that disruptive activist groups are one of the key ingredients to getting things done in the world.

2) I am a moderate, but I don’t think everyone needs to be.

I’m a moderate person by disposition. I think the best change is incremental. I personally like working “within the system”, and think that it’s important to find ways to push for your rights in a manner that doesn’t alienate people. (This is why I’ve always supported Clinton over Sanders.)

But I also am a social realist and a student of history, so I simply cannot dismiss or ignore the importance of radical movements and radical moments for producing social change. A certain amount of radicalism seems to be needed from time to time for shit to get done — and even though I don’t like it personally, I cannot dismiss it as being “always bad” or unnecessary.

So how do I feel specifically about the actions of BLM in Toronto?

It’s not my style. I think it had an element bad optics, easily misinterpreted by people who weren’t there. I, personally, would have liked to see them approach the Pride event coordinators ahead of time–people who are very sympathetic and progressive!–to figure out how they could work together with a message of unit.

However… disruptive activism is how BLM rolls. And I’d be a pretty ignorant and terrible liberal to not acknowledge that there is value in that.



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  1. Ron vizzutti says:

    Except there were twice as many whites killed by cops than blacks in the US last year. Despite being outnumbered by whites 5 to1, blacks commit over 50% of the violent crimes in the US. So blacks are actually under-represented when it comes to being killed by cops per confrontation. Just sayin.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      What’s going on with ending your comment with “just sayin'”?

      Either you think your comment is relevant to the discussion, or you don’t.

      If you think it’s relevant, explain how it’s relevant.

      If not relevant, it’s a pointless comment.

      There’s no need to pussy around with stuff like “just sayin'”.

  2. Greg,

    I have been meaning to ask you this for quite a while now, but did not know how to. This article kind of begs for me to ask and understand and I am sure you know I mean no offense.

    How come, except for Josiah, I’ve never spotted you in the company of people of color, not just men but practically anyone. I say this observing photo albums on your social media as well as interacting audience, quite prominently euro/Caucasian only.

    I know you for a few years now and I am certain you are not racist, far from it. You are a progressive, liberal, inclusive person and most of all very respectful of others, even when they hold very strong and opposite.different opinion than yours.

    It has left me curious a few times and today on reading this article, I had to ask, how come a man so liberal, so polite and inclusive has almost no people of color in his network. I’d be really keen to understand.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Szebastian,

      This is a really good question, and a valid one. It’s something I’ve thought about before, too. One of my best friends, Josiah. is half black and half white. I have some acquaintances (people I see out at parties and bars regularly) who I am friendly with and have a connection with who are black, Hispanic, native American, and Middle Eastern. Professionally I know and am friendly with a number of people who are Indian and a number of people who are Chinese (in both cases, born abroad but now living in the US). However, my circle of close friends has always been predominantly white male.

      Oh yeah! That’s another facet of this: I am friends with very, very few women. I never have been. Even starting in high school, I had plenty of acquaintances and buddies and people “in my social circle” who were women… but I never formed the same kind of close bond with any women that I formed with men.

      Why? It’s never been a conscious thing, although I can’t rule out unconscious biases, obviously. I was brought up in a fairly stereotypical “upper-middle class white New England” environment. I even talked about this some in my video “RIOT” that I did with Josiah (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-oslu-v3Jk). So even though I make a very conscious decision, as part of my personality, to be all-embracing and to seek out diversity in my friends and experiences, I think I unconsciously “gravitate” to stuff that seems safe and familiar.

      • Thank you for the response and candor Greg. I am however, left curious with ‘stuff that seems safe and familiar’.

        It makes me want to dig further and ask, have you ever wondered, asked or discussed in your predominantly white network ‘why do we not have any people of color in our close circle?’.

        Do you see yourself, or your network, welcoming and opening to men from other cultures getting close?

        • Greg Stevens says:

          I’m not sure what question you are asking, when you say “Do you see yourself, or your network, welcoming and opening to men from other cultures getting close?” I’ve already said that I don’t avoid people who are different from me; and I’ve already said that I actively and consciously try to make sure I’m open to all different types of people. So what, above and beyond what I’ve already said, are you asking me about?

          There is one thing that made me laugh in the way you phrased things in your question, too, and I don’t want to be glib about a serious topic but I have to comment on this:

          The phrase “close circle” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how my social life is organized! LOL

          I’ve got: my partner, Jon; two close long-time in-person friends who don’t even live in Dallas; one close friend that I’ve grown apart from lately (but I hope that relationship will heal over time); maybe two or three people who are online friends but whom I consider “close friends”; and then a bunch of acquaintances.

          None of the people in the small itemized list above are really “close” with each other. My “circle of friends” is more or less me having separate binary relationships with maybe a half-dozen individuals. There’s no “Friends”-style coffee-house where we all go and hang out. Also, as I’ve gotten older, it’s become harder and more rare for me to make new close friends. So as I’ve said: my conscious personality is one where I am open to and friendly with and enjoy meeting people from all different wild and crazy and unusual backgrounds. I have a bar buddy who is the sweetest guy in the world who is a straight married Latino male stripper who strips at gay clubs and does gay porn and then goes home to spend the money he makes on his wife and kid. I have “going out buddy” who I like to see out on the social scene who is a dance instructor and I have a Filipino online buddy who is a chemistry graduate student who is one of the smartest guys I know. ….and the fact that none of these people are CLOSE to me is probably in part just because very few people ever get close to me.

          Now, I’ll just finish with the obvious counter-point: Everything I’ve said a moment ago is true, and is part of the story; the other part of the story is that I probably unconsciously end up bonding more easily with white males who speak and think in a manner similar to what I grew up with and what I’m used to. Of course that’s true, I would be stupid to deny it.

          • Ashley says:

            Have you ever heard of the Parable of the Paragons? It’s made by Nicky Case and Vihart and its this interactive website that I think should be really relevant to this conversation.
            I think I see Sebastian’s point and the post could be helpful. A lot of people have a situation similar to yours, and while you seem really self aware and conscious of possible biases, I urge you to think of their consequences. The post deals with the large-scale result of what happens when even well-meaning members of a biased society do what they normally do: gravitate towards similar people, not actively avoiding people of different backgrounds, but not actively seeking them out either.

  3. From what I gathered from my friend AT the scene, there was nothing RUDE or VIOLENT in nature but there was a moment of ‘We want justice’ kind of disruption.

    I am told, black and white, equally joined the voice of this ‘disruption’ and no one was really taking offense. This has been told to me by a white man who has attended nearly all Gay Prides in last 15 years across multiple countries.

    Could it have been done with pre-arrangement? It is hard to say because there is also a history of attaching stereotype with color and presuming the threat of violence, even where there is none. Then there may have been reactive restrictions, over use of police power display with excessive presence, but we’ll never know.

    I am a brown guy, a man of color, I maybe biased but as long as the disruption is peaceful, and with a degree of acceptance and cooperation of others, I do not see it as reverse racism or disruptive much. Let’s not forget a HUGE number of people of color are trolled, bullied, abused, racially vilified on LGBT apps, scene to date – If there is 1 white man supporting Black men, there are 100s who’d write without second though ‘no blacks, no asians, no rice, no chocolate, no curry’.

    The amount of Internalized Homophobia that LGBTIQ has towards each other …….. so …….if this disruption without causing any harm simply makes a point – I do not see WHY the hue and cry on Social Media, except the continued ignorance, internalized homophobia and simple reassertion of denying that Colored Lives DO Matter!

    Yup, I am ready for backlash, color-trained for it whenever I open my mouth to call a spade a spade so bring it on! (your audience Greg, not you!)

    • owen says:

      Internalized homophobia is a buzzword used to discredit gay people who have different opinions than gay activists, it’s intellectually dishonest and nobody is truly “homophobic” against their own sexual preference, they may be critical of people who share their surface-level identity for the behaviors they exhibit but “internalized homophobia” is a crock of shit

      • Greg Stevens says:

        I take kind of a “middle ground” position on this issue.

        I think “internalized homophobia” is a real thing that exists — not as much today as perhaps a ten or twenty years ago, but it still exists. There are people who honestly dislike the fact that they are gay, feel guilt over it, and then translate that guilt into a discomfort around openly gay people. It’s a real thing, and it’s a shame when it happens.

        However, I also think it’s a term that’s over-used a LOT. Like you said, Owen, a lot of people JUMP to assumptions about “internalized homophobia” simply because someone is expresses criticism of some aspect of gay culture, or say that they prefer things that are different from what “mainstream accepted gays” think and like. In fact, ironically, decades ago, gay people who said they wanted to get married (to each other!) were often accused of “internalized homophobia” because they were trying to “assimilate straight lifestyle” rather than accepting all of the casual sex that was predominant among a lot of gay people at the time. Obviously, times have changed … which just goes to show how disingenuous some accusations of “internalized homophobia” can be.

        In this particular case…. I’m not actually sure why Szebastian invoked “internalized homophobia” in his comment. I don’t really want to assume one way or the other.

        So Szebastian, maybe you can take a second to explain exactly what you were referring to when you mentioned internalized homophobia, and why you thought it was applicable in this particular discussion.

        • Glad you asked Greg and my response is going to be a bit ‘long story telling’, but I do not apologize for that.

          Owen, with as much certainty you said, and I quote:

          “(Internalized Homophobia) it’s intellectually dishonest and nobody is truly “homophobic” against their own sexual preference”

          I can safely assume, that you believe that the very problem of Internalized Homophobia does not exist, and is a mythical propaganda used by (primarily non-white) individuals to further their ‘activist’ agenda. Similarly, to say ‘nobody is truly homophobic against their own sexual preference’ is to entirely ignore that internalized oppression, discrimination and prejudice based on color, religion, origin, demeanor do exist within LGBTIQ Community.

          While I cannot be sure, but once again, I can safely presume you are a White Gay Male who has not faced this side of our community as much a homosexual of color may have in their life. Do you often find yourself saying, ‘I am not racist, I just am not attracted to men’ and the fact is ‘who we are NOT attracted to’ is very heavily driven by what environment we grow up in.

          I’ll train the pointers towards myself, even before I can point towards you. My intention is not to ‘argue to win’ but to create an understanding, if you will.

          I grew up being ‘not attracted to CHINKI & HABSHI’ (very racist term for Asian and African origin people respectively) people despite being raised by very liberal, progressive, inclusive and anti-discrimination parents. They never taught me the words C&H, nor did they ever approve of them, when once or twice they found me making racist statements. I was made to sit down and understand that wherever I picked it up from, it is a very negative and destructive view.

          All through my teenage I struggled with ‘trusting’ C&H. In my late teens I moved to Australia and started learning about equality, equal rights, discrimination, exclusion, inclusion by witnessing the importance of it all around me. I found myself opening up to races, even sexually and romantically. I surprised myself when I feel for my first Asian man, suddenly he was the most attractive person to me. I found myself making great friends with men of African origin. With time, I also found myself questioning ‘why did I call some people ugly, despite my parents teaching me no such thing, but the opposite’ and answer was – the society I grew up in, I witnessed these discrimination and they were seen as not only OKAY but also the ‘right’ thing to do because somehow I belonged to ‘the better human section’. I realized in my culture racism, sexism, discrimination were pretty rampant and we ‘the Indians’ felt it was our right to be ‘higher and better’ than Asians and Africans.

          Today, I am a different person. I find people of many origins, races and even different demeanor attractive. There was a time, if back then Grindr existed, I would have written ‘no sissy’ and today that term not only offends me but also I feel hurt for anyone who is flamboyant or feminine by nature. I dated a guy who was a male Paris Hilton per say, but I was attracted to him and even after we broke up, it was amicable and I still think he is a beautiful person. I have more Asian, African, Arabic, Indian friends than I did in past. Heck, I believe I was even internalized racist to my own race. Decades later I find myself not only more welcoming of people from all walks of life but I find beauty in almost everyone.

          Point of this long saga? It is simple – the problem of internalized homophobia exist as much as racism does, and like a racist and homophobe, we do not see it until we experience the ugly side ourselves. I must say, it takes quite the balls to admit it to oneselves before we can admit to others. And yes Owen, one CAN be homophobic towards their own preferences – many LGBTIQ struggle with their own identity and fight their ‘being the way they are’. And this struggle is a subset of being closeted, often driven by circumstances around them. But this is a topic that needs a debate of its own.

          And to answer your very valid question Greg, why I invoked ‘Internalized Homophobia’ in this particular instance – if you read from my point of view, I used the positive connotation that ‘the problem exists and often certain sections within mass-representations’ get ignored and it was a good thing that this minor disruption was not hated on by the organizers and other participants. I again asked My friend ‘E’ who was there, and he confirmed, as a white male, he did not think anyone was offended or looked peeved off but let it happen to avoid being labeled racist. Instead he believes people cheered them on and supported their movement with enthusiasm. But we cannot speak for what may be going inside people’s mind, from surface I am told it looked not only cooperative but also very supportive towards each other’s movements despite the said ‘disruption’.

          So my point was, there is much discrimination that exists within our community and it cannot be denied – something like this to happen not only peacefully and cooperatively but also with each other’s support is a very good thing to happen that denounces internalized homophobia. It was a relevant comment my view at the time I wrote it and it still is.

          I must add to this rather long reply, despite supporting their disruption, and believing it was a cohesive display of solidarity from all sides, I do think, to seek removal of police is quite strange. I do not understand how removing entire police force (many and most of whom may have been LGBT themselves) because SOME white cops murdered some black men, seems quite a counter-productive demand to their purpose of seeking equality. That part, I am struggling to understand and digest.

          • Greg Stevens says:

            Thanks, Szebastian, for taking the time to write out that great thoughtful response.

            Now that you’ve explained it, I think I can see how in your mind the notion of “internalized homophobia” might have been related; although to be honest it did seem unrelated to the topic at hand at first, so I can see who someone might have read your original comment and thought, “Wow, where did THAT come from??”

            Oh, and I also want to take a moment to agree with your final paragraph: I absolutely disagree with the BLM’s demands regarding the police float at Pride events. However — and I’ve had to say this multiple times on Twitter and in other social media forums talking about this topic — the fact that I don’t agree 100% with their platform has NOTHING TO DO WITH whether or not I support the way they went about organizing their protest or the validity of the way they gained voice at the event. It’s two separate issues.

          • I am in total agreement there Greg.

            Also, please excuse the multiple typos and syntax errors and a couple of things got missed cos I used angular brackets, but thank you for including me in this conversation.

  4. Flubber says:

    So. the minor matter of BLM being an explicitly racist anti-white pro-black supremacists organisation preaching violence and hate doesn’t bother you…

    As long as you’re the first victim then…

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