Proud Voices at Pride TO 2010

This year, I have been thrilled to have been invited to read from The Drifts at this year’s Proud Voices stage at Pride TO 2010. This has long been a secret aspiration of mine and here it is! But in light of Pride TO’s efforts to censor Queers Against Israeli Apartheid I have been struggling with the ethics around withdrawing from this event. After quite a bit of soul-searching and discussion with Vajdon (my partner), friends and colleagues I have decided that our communities’ visibility trumps these censorship efforts. We must be visible and we must resist censorship. Here’s a wonderful email exchange from this morning between Susan Cole, Coordinator of Proud Voices, it’s participants and me.

On 10-Jun-10, at 10:06 AM, Susan wrote:

hello proud voices –

many of you have been writing me asking about pride’s decision to ban the word Israeli Apartheid from the Pride parade. some of you have been so upset about the decision that you’ve dropped out of Proud Voices, some of you are determined to stay on and speak out against censorship and repression here and around the world on the Proud Voices stages. Others are distressed but aren’t sure what to do. And some of you think Pride made the right decision in the first place,

given the range of participants at Proud Voices i’m not surprised that there hasn’t been only one response to Pride’s decision.

Here’s mine.

i attended the meeting last monday of the coalition for free speech at pride and it was clear that the group was not proposing a single response to Pride. There was definitely no call for a boycott.

And so i’ve decided that he Proud Voices stage will be a free speech zone. i believe it’s important that those who are upset with Pride have a forum to say so and i’m inviting Proud Voices to do just that. And, just to be clear, free speech is a right for everyone on the stage, including those of you who approve of Pride’s decision. So – everyone, speak your minds.

To those of you who have said you’ll drop out, i do understand your outrage and your refusal to associate with censors. and i’d ask you again to reconsider and fight censorship with more free speech. if you can’t bring yourself to do that, i wholly respect your decision.

if you want to connect with other Proud Voices to discuss this, i’ve left all your addresses in the To: column so you can have some dialogue.

unless i hear from you, i’ll assume that those of you who have contacted me with decisions to either stay or withdraw are standing by your decisions.

with great appreciation for your brains, talent and values,

Subject: Re: Pride and censorship
Date: June 10, 2010 10:29:16 AM EDT (CA)

Susan! Thank you so much for this email. Obviously, many of us have been torn. So honoured to have been invited, so dismayed at the direction Pride TO has taken. I, too, have seriously considered w/drawing (sshhh, don’t tell Coach House!). For myself, in my gut, I knew that a boycott or dropping out was not the right course. I have participated in, & attended, Prides in Chicago, LA, Lansing, MI and TO over the years. That one week – and even one day – is a unique opportunity for our communities to be visible. We must be visible.

I will not let our own’s effort to censor our own defeat that visibility to the wider world. I won’t sacrifice that. I will continue to push for free speech (but not hate-speech) in ours, and other’s, events. Literature and art is sacred terrain when it comes to censorship; if QuAIA is censored now, artists are next. I’m from the States, trust me – NEA 5, anyone? Mapplethorpe, Sprinkle, Miller?

While the last month has been going down, I’ve been on the road doing readings & workshops – most notably at the Harvey Milk Festival in Sarasota, FL. Harvey’s message that queer/gay rights are inextricably linked to human rights was punched up again for me and never more poignant. I wrote a number of blog posts (see “Me & Harvey” posts on American Refugee) from down there as I reflected on what was happening up here.

I am grateful that you addressed this as it had crossed my mind to contact you. thom
416-807-5260 (C)

Thom’s novel The Drifts (Coach House Books/Northwestern UP, 2010) was released in April. He will be the July 2010 Writer in Residence at Open Book Toronto. Become a fan at facebook/thedrifts or follow at Twitter/thomvernon

~ by Thom on June 10, 2010.

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