First, The Grid published Paul Aguirre-Livingston's essay, "Dawn of a New Gay", that argues he's part of a twentysomething generation of urban gays who, by dint of their social freedom and opportunities, "don’t need to categorize or define ourselves as gay." He goes on to say: "We don’t march in Pride and we probably never will. (After-parties only, please.)"
The essay ignited such a backlash that The Grid felt compelled to publish an explanation of why it was published.
Then, Mayor Rob Ford announced he was going to the cottage instead of continuing a 13-year tradition of Toronto mayors marching in the Pride parade. Neither he nor his staff have explained why Ford doesn't plan to go to one of the many other many Pride activities.
We wondered if Aguirre-Livingston would be as disappointed with Ford as some of the Pride supporters who criticized his essay.
He answered our questions, with the caveat: "I don't shun Pride (in fact, I loathe that word - shun) - it's just not 'my thing' right now. I do, however, enjoy all the events before, around and after it, for the record!"
Here is his take on Ford and Pride:
Q: What do you make of Rob Ford’s actions?”
A. I think it's unfortunate that the city has such a half-hearted, short-sighted mayor like Ford. His decision to forgo Pride, although equally unfortunate, is rather embarrassing and telling of the legacy he'll leave on our city - that is, no legacy at all. If he were voyaging for peace talks in some remote corner of the world, I'd throw him a bone. But Hunstville? A cottage? Give me a break. This is a question of civic duty and integrity as the figurehead of our city. It's a slap in the face, and, if we're talking bottom lines like Ford always does, just bad business.
Q. Do you think there is any onus on him to participate, in some way, in Pride?
A. Sure, a lot of people say Ford can't be at every parade, or at every opening, or at every cultural celebration. Well, fine, I agree. But let's put this into perspective. On the hierarchy of Toronto social and cultural (city-wide) functions, Pride is way up there. Big bucks up there. Millions of people up there. I'm not saying Pride is more important than any other event, but, it has an undeniable significance to a lot of people in the city, and that's been made clear over the last few weeks.
There's obviously been strong opinions voiced over his decision, and that alone should be enough to make Ford concede. Now, of course, the question is whether or not the community at large even wants him at Pride if he's going to grumpy about it. To that, I say force him. Force him to do his job and represent for the city because it's important to its citizens. I'm not saying his appearance won't be in vain nor will it prove he's actually interested in the community, but it will at least teach him a valuable lesson about the strength and solidarity of the gay community and how to pick his battles. If he can find time to coach high school football at 3:40 p.m. on a Wednesday (office hours!), then he can do something that actually relates to his job, like, you know, marching in Pride. No ifs or ands, just plenty of butts.
It's sad, I don't think the problem is that Ford is uncomfortable around gay people. I just don't think he's that interested in us, or understands the scope of the community he's dealing with. Trust me, if my tiny article can bring out the activist streak in even the most apolitical person, Ford has no idea what he's up against if he continues to screw up or piss off the gay community even more. And although after reading my piece you'd think I don't care about politics or have any idea what's going on, it's quite the opposite. I'm grateful for Toronto and the freedoms it has allowed me to enjoy and the progress we've made (and the miles left to go), but if Ford ever did anything to infringe on these freedoms and rights, I would be the first in line to help organize the most vicious and resilient rally and gay rights campaign this city has seen in decades.