World Pride Toronto

World Pride Toronto

From June 20th – 29th 2014, Toronto will host the 4th edition of the WorldPride Festival. In celebration of this international event, our people share their stories about what Pride means to them.

By David Platts, partner, McCarthy Tétrault

Pride. La fierté. When I do workshops in classes demystifying homosexuality and bisexuality, students often ask, “Why do you need a pride parade?”. And the answer is both simple and complex. Communities and individuals need to be proud and need to have the chance to share the collective feeling of well-being that occurs when pride and joy are publicly demonstrated as a group. And people need a chance to show and see all of the diversity that makes up a community, the various social, political, and economic faces that compose it. Parades are a prime communication tool, of collectivity, of individualism, of belonging, of public displays and of sharing the sheer happiness of being alive, as any child who has ever sat on a parent’s shoulders to see better knows…

So did I imagine one day I would be attending a McCarthy Tétrault pride event, with a client? Or that my law firm would do pro bono for and champion some LGBT causes dear to my heart? Or that sexual orientation would be one of the many valued diversities at our firm, for which I sit on the National Diversity Committee? To be frank: not really. But they seem like all pretty darn fine reasons to be proud and to celebrate Pride, together.

By Kirsten Thompson, McCarthy Tétrault

One of the key turning points in my life was a quick set of realizations I had back when I was a twenty-something at university. The first was my immense relief at finally figuring out I was gay (I was a bit slow on the uptake, but to be fair, there were no Ellens, or Lady Gagas or Kathleen Wynnes at the time so I really didn’t have a lot to work with).

This stunning revelation was followed immediately by the grim realization that I had no future where I was. I was just starting my career and the changes we take for granted today hadn’t yet happened: I could be fired from my job without recourse (and I was), marriage and family weren’t on the table, and gaybashing was routine and something you reported to the police at your peril.

The Pride Parade in the city I lived in was in its infancy and consisted of a few dozen people walking through a couple of blocks in the deserted downtown core on a Sunday afternoon. The protesters and picketers outnumbered the marchers. Police refused to provide protection. Some of the more fervently religious in the crowd would take photos of the marchers and send them to employers hoping to get the marchers fired. The tactic was often successful.

I had heard of a promised land in the east called Toronto, where there was a community, where there was more job security and where same-sex couples even occasionally dared to hold hands in public – at least along a few blocks of Church Street. I packed up and left.

Before you paint me as some codger reminiscing about the bygone days of yesteryear, I remind you that you all this happened, and was regarded as ordinary, in recent memory. That fact makes the pace of the change we have seen even more incredible. So what does Pride mean to me? It means the remarkable shift from the dark into the light, where not a day passes that I’m not grateful for the opportunities I now have, in Toronto, in Canada, and at McCarthy Tétrault.

By Jonathan A.Odumeru, Associate, McCarthy Tétrault

For me, Pride legitimizes a life-long internal and external struggle for acceptance and understanding of my identity. It charismatically celebrates how far we have come as a community, and embodies a movement that strives for universal acceptance of every hue of gender and sexuality. I will never forget my first time attending the Pride parade. It was my first month living in Toronto, and a mere month after "coming out" to my family. Needless to say it was an overwhelming experience, one that's hard to capture in a short blog post, but I can say for certain I had never seen a more beautiful rainbow after a long period of rain.

I'm very proud to work in an organization and live in a city/province/country that takes the meaning of Pride to heart!

Happy World Pride!

By Lisa Vogt, partner and Chief Diversity Officer, McCarthy Tétrault

World Pride (not just ordinary Pride) takes place in Toronto this year, and the signs are everywhere: rainbow coloured cross walks have appeared in the Village, Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” blares from every car stereo, and stores have dedicated entire aisles to sun screen and SuperSoakers. Throughout the summer, similar transformations will occur in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

This year, for the first time, McCarthy Tétrault is holding a Big Gay Party for clients. Within the firm, a Pride drinks/drop-in is held in the Toronto office – and staff have been attending in record numbers. These things, for the most part, seem fairly ordinary today. The fact that we regard them as ordinary is a sign of how far we, as a profession, as a firm, and as a country, have come on what used to be referred to as the “gay issue”.

I am incredibly proud that McCarthy Tétrault has taken a leadership role. I am proud that the steps we have taken as a firm over the years have led us to a place where we can organize an event, call it a Big Gay Party, and be confident that clients will attend. As a lawyer, I’m proud of the role my profession has played in moving the dial forward on LGBT human rights. As Chief Diversity Officer I’m proud that I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the amazing transformation that McCarthy Tétrault has undergone over the years and I’m proud that McCarthy Tétrault has been recognized repeatedly for the successes it has had in moving diversity forward.

Finally, as a parent, I am infinitely curious about who my children are and who they will become. The fact that one of my daughters is gay is just one part, but an essentially and necessary part, of who she is. I could not be prouder of her. A generation ago, this difference might not have been acknowledged by her. Pride is about acknowledging, and valuing, our differences. Just bring it.

Happy Pride!

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