Toronto Mayor Rob Ford snubs gay outreach

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On May 8, the Globe and Mail reported that Mayor Rob Ford had turned down PFLAG’s invitation to attend a flag-raising event being held at City Hall on May 17. It would have been a relatively painless way for him to finally acknowledge the city’s LGBT community, which he snubbed last year when he missed the Pride parade to go to the cottage, a tradition he plans to carry out again this year.

PFLAG, which stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said he replied to their invitation by saying he couldn’t fit this year’s flag-raising into his schedule. However, The Toronto Star reported Tuesday that his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, said the mayor had not yet ruled it out.

Ford’s repeated refusal to attend anything to do with the gay community hearkens back to an older version of the city, where being queer wasn’t mainstream and public officials kept their distance at all costs. In modern, “world-class” Toronto, who’d have thought we’d be back to wondering why the mayor won’t associate with “practicing” homosexuals? Here's a quick timeline of the public face of Toronto's gay community. It shows us how in some ways, we've come full-circle.

1964 Gay magazine, Canada’s first publication to use the word “gay” in its name, begins publishing in Toronto.

1974 Four lesbians are arrested at The Brunswick House after performing a song called “I Enjoy Being a Dyke” and then refusing to leave the bar at the request of the owner. The women said they were physically assaulted during the arrest, but police were acquitted of any wrongdoing.

1979 Buddies in Bad Times theatre company launches in Toronto. The company remains a stalwart of the city’s queer theatre scene and a central hub during Pride celebrations.

1981 More than 300 men were arrested when the Toronto police raided four bathhouses. The event galvanized the community to fight back against systematic oppression, and spurred the creation of the city’s Pride parade. Later that year, journalist Arnold Bruner released a report about the relationship between the police and the gay community, describing deeply homophobic attitudes throughout the police force. While there had been scattered LGBT-focused celebrations in Toronto prior to 1981, the Pride parade began on an annual basis that year.

1984 Queer-focused newspaper Xtra!, run by the same company that founded national magazine The Body Politic, launches in Toronto.

1990 Toronto architect Chris Lea elected leader of Green Party of Canada, becomes first openly gay leader of a national political party.

1991 Kyle Rae becomes Toronto’s first openly-gay city councillor, representing Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale), which includes the Gay Village.

1996 The first Dyke March is held at Toronto Pride.

1999 George Smitherman is elected to the provincial legislature (Toronto Centre-Rosedale), becoming the first openly gay MPP in Ontario.

2000 Toronto police raid a women’s bathhouse event called Pussy Palace. Police charge two organizers with operating a common bawdy house.

2003 A court decision makes same-sex marriage legal in Ontario. “The Michaels” (Michael Leshner and Michael Stark) become the first Toronto gay couple to tie the knot.

2004 Police chief Julian Fantino and mayor David Miller both appear on the cover of Fab magazine. Fantino is dressed in police attire, surrounded by models dressed somewhat like The Village People. On Miller’s cover, he appears dressed all in leather.

2005 Police Chief Bill Blair becomes the city’s first top cop to participate in the Pride parade.

2007 Proud FM, the world’s first commercially-run LGBT radio station, launches in Toronto.

2009 The first Trans March is held at Toronto Pride.

2010 Smitherman runs for mayor of Toronto. During the campaign, a series of homophobic ads about him run on a Tamil radio station, and crudely-made posters surface, saying “Should Muslim vote for him who married a man?” Rob Ford wins the election.

2012 Mayor Rob Ford, for the second year in a row, declines offers to attend Pride and a non-affiliated PFLAG flag-raising ceremony. This comes just days after a co-host on his radio show referred to Smitherman as a “practicing homosexual” and speculated on his likelihood of contracting HIV.

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