Nearly 100 people flooded Nathan Phillips Square’s Podium Green Roof Thursday to celebrate the city’s annual pride flag raising ceremony in support of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHOT).
Created in 2004 to help draw the attention of policymakers and the public to the violence and discrimination experience by the international Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) community, the event is usually held on May 17 in order to commemorate the day that the World Health Organization chose to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.
However, because May 17 falls on a Saturday, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly declared May 16 2014 as IDAHOT in the city of Toronto and arranged to have city hall light up in rainbow colours in support of Toronto’s LGBTQ community.
In addition to Mr. Kelly, more than a dozen city councillors took part in the ceremony including Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto’s only openly gay councillor. Toronto mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, John Tory, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki were also in attendance.
“In too many countries in the world, in too many cities people are denied full participation in the lives of their communities by unfair discriminatory laws and customs,” said Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. “Our assembly today is designed to remind people of this unfairness and to declare our support for those struggling for their basic human rights.”
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, IDAHOT has exponentially grown over the past decade and took place in nearly 120 countries around the world in 2013.
“Toronto is a beacon for all people who want to live, work and play in a city that respects and celebrates them,” he said.
Irene Miller, the president of Toronto PFlag, was overwhelmed by the city’s show of support for the LGBTQ community.
“I don’t think I’ve seen as many councillors come out as I did today,’ she said. “I think when [Mr. Kelly] read the proclamation that the words came not just from a paper, but from the heart.”
Ms. Miller also pointed out tthat the last time the pride flag waved in front of city hall was last February during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia . At the time, Mayor Rob Ford criticized the flag and tried to have it taken down saying the Olympic Games were about patriotism and not sexual preference.
In her speech, Ms. Miller denounced the mayor’s attempts to have the flag removed saying that “it is more than just a piece of cloth and should never be disrespected in such a horrible way.”
“The flag is more than a piece of fabric,” she said. “It really, truly means something to all who recognize the struggles that go together in those colours to make it a symbol of hope, support, love and acceptance.”