June is PRIDE month in Canada and around the world.

PRIDE is about standing strong in the face of adversity. It’s about facing ignorance and hate head on, and giving others the courage to do the same.

In Ontario, PRIDE is a joyful celebration of LGBTQ culture, but make no mistake – PRIDE is political, and it is critical that we never become complacent. This year CUPE Ontario members will participate in more than 30 PRIDE events in communities all across the province.

PRIDE was born out of police persecution of the gay community. It’s not so long ago that gay bashing was a regular occurrence, yet it was the LGBTQ community that was criminalized while the attackers went virtually unpunished. In 1981, Toronto police targeted the gay community by raiding bathhouses, arresting everyone and outing many whose lives were irreparably damaged.

A group of bold and brave people chose to put their own safety at risk and stand strong in the face of hate and discrimination. They gave others the courage they needed to rise up. Friends and allies stood with them. Toronto’s small but mighty PRIDE was born as it continues to do in communities all across Ontario.

We’ve come a long way since then but there are still many within the LGBTQ community who still face discrimination, hate, harassment and violence because of the colour of their skin or how they choose to dress or the fact that who they are doesn’t fit with the body parts they were born with.

Toronto Pride is now famous world-wide as a safe space where one can be open about one’s sexuality and gender identity. It’s a time to be loved without judgement, but this is sadly not true for everyone. Our province’s LGBTQ communities are as diverse as the world itself, and people have vastly different lived experiences that need to be recognized and understood.

Though we have made many gains over the last twenty years, we are now living through a resurgence of hate and discrimination that is being stoked by some of our province’s politicians. None of us can afford to stay silent. It’s more important than ever that we be bold and brave and stand together against discrimination and hate in all its forms.