By Jeff Baillargeon
Since the first Toronto Pride in 1981, many have marched annually in the streets of Toronto for gay and lesbian rights. Many, however, if not explicitly, have been taking to the streets for trans rights. This changed in 2009.
Organized by Karah Mathiason and Diane Grant, a Toronto-based trans-lesbian couple, the first Trans March attracted approximately 100 participants despite not being officially endorsed by Pride Toronto.
Over the years as Pride has increasingly become a moment of celebration for many cis-gender and white queer individuals—moving away from its roots as a protest against police brutality and the raiding of gay bars and bathhouses in the post-war years—the groups who have yet to reap the benefits of gay liberation continue to take to the streets for political change. But often these rallying cries for justice are ignored, or downplayed by event officials in the organization of the marches. The trans community is one of these groups whose voice has been consistently silenced. This, however, is not an issue specific to Pride Toronto. As Monica Forester, an outreach worker at the 519 on Church Street related in an interview with the Toronto Star, “[t]ranspeople have always lived in the shadows and most people haven’t taken an interest in our community.” (Source: Toronto Star)
In organising this march, Mathiason and Grant sought to provide a space, however small, where trans people could unite together in celebration and resistance, reminding the community that they exist and that their struggles are real, valid and urgent. The turnout was much greater than Mathiason had anticipated, and now it is a march that is increasingly larger every year. In 2016, for example, the Trans March on July 3rd drew a crowd of over 10,000 people—the largest in Canadian history at the time. (Source: Now Toronto)
Now an official part of Pride festivities in Toronto, the history of the Trans March is evidence of the struggle for recognition many face within the queer community still to this day, reminding us why we take to the streets every year in June, and importantly, why we should not take this right for granted.