I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage Toronto city councillor Rob Ford to come out and experience Pride this year. I think it could clear up a lot of his confusion as to whether or not it's a worthwhile event for the city to be spending money on. It might even save the city some money by reducing the amount of blood pressure medication required by other council members.
Last week Ford, who represents Ward 2 Etobicoke North, attempted to reopen the issue of community grants funding approved by city council in May in order to revisit the $100,000 grant that Pride received from the city. Although the motion failed, Ford wasn't alone in wanting to yank the money back; Doug Holyday, Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre, and Mike Del Grande, Ward 39 Scarborough Agincourt, voted with him.
Despite the estimated $80-million that Pride festivities bring to the city, this is the first year that the organization has received cash from the city. Up until now the city's support has consisted of waiving the fees for street closure permits and additional policing.
Earlier in the same week, Ford had taken issue with a smaller grant also destined for Pride Toronto.
"People might think this is funny but I don't know what it means. I know what lesbian, gay, bisexual [is]. Transsexual and transgendered, can you explain what that means? Because there's a group here that says Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans-sexual Transgendered Pride Toronto and I don't know what a transsexual or transgendered is.... I gotta hold this down 'cause I can't just blindly approve this," he told council on Tue, Jun 14, eliciting a collective groan.
After multiple attempts to explain transgenderism by city's Community Resources Director Chris Brillinger, who looked as though he was doing his best not to roll his eyes at the football coach, Ford still wasn't able to move on.
"I'm a little confused. I'm not getting the answers. I don't understand. Number one, I don't understand a transgender. I don't understand. Is it a guy that dresses up like a girl or a girl that dresses up as a guy? And we're funding this?.... We're funding this for, what does it say here, we're giving them $3,210."
Finally, Ford was asked by a fellow council member to be more respectful in the discussion of his ignorance.
"I'm not out to be prejudiced against anyone," Ford responded. "So if you've taken exception, if I've said something, I don'tknow what I've said wrong.
"I'm talking about grants. Right here, this money," Ford said, ripping a page out of the document under consideration and waving it around. "This is what I'm talking about.... I have no idea what they do."
But gender identity isn't the only thing Ford doesn't understand. The entire Access And Equity Grant Program, which funds a variety of programs aiming to promote diversity and tolerance, seems to baffle him.
"When you say racism... how do you describe racism? Is it someone's skin colour, religion, race? It's a very broad word and I'd like to know what you're pinpointing.... If you criticize someone because they wear braces or have glasses, are overweight, what sort of crime are they committing? Is that a hate crime? Is that a racist comment?"
Clearly explanations just don't work for Ford, so perhaps a little firsthand experience would do the trick. If you see him coming around over the weekend, be sure to give him your best Pride welcome.