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I know about white privilege. After Pride TO, I'm feeling white embarrassment

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Despite Justin Trudeau's considerable star power, his appearance at last Sunday's Toronto Pride parade has been eclipsed by the sit-in staged by Black Lives Matter Toronto, and the ensuing fallout. The group had a series of demands for Pride organizers, including more funding for events for people of colour, the hiring of more trans people and racial and ethnic minorities, and for the exclusion of police floats and a reduction in numbers of police in uniform.

Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois agreed to all of the BLM's demands, signing a document to that effect. The parade proceeded and it appeared the intervention was over.

But BLM's tactics and its demands have ignited a huge controversy within the LGBT community and have led to a backlash against BLM, who report a large number of hostile emails since Sunday's parade. Some have argued the forced shutdown of the parade amounted to an act of extortion; others have said BLM was attacking one of its own allies, the Pride event and its organizers, going so far as to accuse them of bullying; and some have come to the defense of the police, who, they say, have made great advances in terms of their dealings with sexual minorities.

I confess to being really shocked at the reactions of many gay men, who have vented their feelings on social media extensively. Too often these men are, like me, white and middle- or upper-middle class. Rather than becoming an opportunity to discuss intersectionality, the Pride event and the BLM actions have exposed stark divisions within LGBTQ communities.

The talk of blocking police floats became the most immediate flashpoint: one gay Toronto police officer, Chuck Krangle, wrote a moving account of his own coming out in a public letter, urging Pride organizers not to diminish a police presence at future parades. "Exclusion does not promote inclusion," he wrote. Many argued that having police at the Pride event is a welcome symbol of how far the LGBTQ community has come in the past few decades. Social media was full of comments about how greater security was needed given the recent massacre of 49 people in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. (The Toronto parade included a minute of silence for the Orlando victims.)

There were also, notably, lively defenses of BLM's actions. Writing in The Globe and Mail, University of Waterloo professor Naila Keleta-Mae pointed out that "Progress is messy....Front-line activism rarely feels good for those whose lives and worldviews are interrupted or inconvenienced by public demonstrations of dissent." She also pointed to the irony of people complaining about a protest against police at an event that began as a protest against police.

Gary Kinsman, a Canadian historian and one of the organizers of the Pride protests of 1981, agreed on CBC.ca, pointing out that "The Black Lives Matter contingent carried with it the spirit of Stonewall and the activist roots of Pride -- not Pride as it is now, defined by corporations, by mainstream political parties, by the police. Pride is our biggest gathering, our greatest opportunity to stand against such aggression."

For many, the extreme backlash against BLM's brief intervention and demands confirmed the worst, most cynical suspicions about what Pride events have become. Floats representing corporations like banks, a proliferation of perfectly chiseled "Pride bodies" and even the presence of conservative politicians have led many to feel the parades have been gentrified and co-opted.

Indeed, they reflect the contradictions of contemporary life in a city like Toronto: at once incredibly diverse -- with more than half its population non-white -- boasting a robust cultural milieu, it also has a rapidly escalating real estate market, one that is making the city out of reach for even the middle class, let alone the lower class and poor.

The Parade itself, as many have observed, has become less about Stonewall and more about Stepford.

At times, the march feels like that iconic Coca-cola commercial, in which wildly photogenic people join hands and sing about peace and unity while trying to sell us something. It's one of the reasons I stopped going to Pride parades years ago.

It is a criticism that is often made about mainstream LGBTQ events, and as unpleasant as it is to say it, it's often true: too much of what is being discussed reflect the priorities or concerns of affluent white gay men. While I understand the incredible bravery of police officers to come out and change police forces from within, it must be clear that what many people of colour face in their day-to-day dealings with police is entirely unacceptable.

And it's not like it's not part of the public discourse. Last year, Toronto Life magazine published a cover story by black journalist Desmond Cole, in which he painstakingly recounted his history of being repeatedly carded by police officers, for the obvious reason that he is black. In essence, Cole was describing the ordeal of walking while Black while living in Toronto. The piece drew huge attention, was widely shared, and even prompted Mayor John Tory to comment that the carding policy must be reviewed. Last month the article won a National Magazine Award.

Let no one pretend they haven't heard that relations between police and the Black community have been, and continue to be, fraught. If white gay men haven't bothered to read this article, please do so now.

I'm not arguing there isn't reason to party. There is no debating that people who have identified as LGBTQ have known great advances in our lives since 1969, widely regarded as a watershed year for what was then referred to as Gay Liberation. That was the year of the Stonewall riots in New York, and when sodomy was removed from Canada's criminal code by a young Pierre Trudeau, then Canada's Minister of Justice. And I don't mean to attack Pride organizers; it must have been extremely difficult for Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois to know precisely what to do given the predicament he faced in the middle of the parade.

But one could argue the hard-won victories are empty if we ignore or sideline the marginalized within our own ranks. As we gather at massive parades and parties, celebrating slogans about unity and diversity, the underlying theme is always that "we are in this together."

The question must be asked: who is the "we" that is being referred to? This is the epic challenge facing identity politics: we have experienced great successes and breakthroughs, but Sunday's BLM protests and the ensuing fallout reflect an ongoing failure -- the inability of some to hear the complaints of people who feel neither included nor safe in our community. The discussions and debates will be long and painful.

We haven't backed away from difficult challenges before. Why would we now?

Matthew Hays is a Montreal-based journalist whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vice, The Walrus and The Daily Beast. He teaches courses in film studies and journalism at Marianopolis College and Concordia University.

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