On July 22, almost two weeks after the buzz of Pride Week dissipated from the Victoria area for another year, Alt Pride came to the streets of Fernwood.
Alt Pride is an annual grassroots call to action organized by and for the local trans, non-binary, and two-spirit community.
The event started with sign making and an acknowledgement of the Lekwungen and ẈSÁNEĆ peoples, on whose territories this march occurred. A crowd of about 50 people then marched from Fernwood Community Centre and ended at Stadacona Park, where there was food to share, and an opportunity to reflect, relax and meet new people.
Casper LeBlanc marched with the message, “Passing Is a Transphobic Concept”. He wanted to display a message that he felt was truthful, but perhaps one that isn’t often considered by cisgender (non-trans) people to understand. “Passing” generally refers to a trans person’s ability to be read as the gender they identify with (according to dominant gender norms), thereby rendering their transness invisible. As LeBlanc explained, “‘Passing’ is something that’s forced on the trans community by non-trans people…Passing helps us but also [damns] us at the same time.” He was clear not to undermine trans folks who “pass,” as for some, their safety or well-being is contingent on doing so. Casper also wanted to highlight, though, that “passing” is not always the end goal, and assuming so perpetuates the idea the being read as cis is somehow better or more desirable than being read as trans.
Brat, another local, marched with her child Fox, who got to view everything from the shade of a stroller. Fox is raised gender neutral, while Brat identifies as queer and fluid– an identity that considers her constant state of questioning expectations. “I think a lot of people go [to Alt Pride] because they want to be inclusive and this is how they reach out,” Brat said. “The main Pride…[has] become more of an ad than a fight.”
The entire notion of Pride began not with parades and sponsorships, but rather with protests and riots that arose out of necessity. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 particularly catalyzed the fight for queer liberation. Trans women of colour, like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (featured in the video below) were on the front lines to the Stonewall Riots, but the progress made thereafter predominantly centred the narratives and needs of white, gay, cis men.
“Pride” first reached Canada in the early ‘70s, as annual picnics on the Toronto islands, and remained grassroots events unrecognized by city council for about two decades. Notable violent riots in Montreal in 1976, then Toronto in 1981, broke out after gay establishments being raided and hundreds of patrons arrested and publicly outed. The first Pride March was in Toronto in the early ‘80s, amid intense growing pains for LGBTQ liberation.
Alt Pride aims to be an alternative to mainstream Pride, by centring the voices of those who most frequently experience marginalization, erasure from histories, and systemic violence – namely queer and trans indigenous people & people of colour (QTIPOCs) and trans feminine people, among others (read more here). Alt Pride serves as reminder to the public and to the LGBTQ2SIA+ community that the work is not done, and that there is an active political battle for just and dignified treatment of trans, non-binary, and two-spirit people right here in Victoria.