#DisplayYourPride 2023: Collectively Changing Our Culture

Image of a colorful lion drawn by the members from the Innovation Hub.
Cheryl smiling

June is Pride month! From flag raisings to arts and crafts, here’s what we’re doing at the Innovation Hub this year to commemorate the occasion and honor our commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion—even after the festivities come to an end. 

Written by Cheryl Nong, Research Coordinator, Honours Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Neuroscience Double Major

First celebrated in the 1970s as a tribute to the 1969 Stonewall riots, Pride programming held in June offers us all the chance to recognize, celebrate, and uplift members of the LGBTQ+ community. This month is packed full of events both on and off-campus. However, some of the most important parts of Pride—learning about the movement’s history, reflecting on its personal relevance, and challenging norms of intolerance—can take place internally all year round. 

Celebrating Pride in the University Community 

On Thursday, June 1st, the Innovation Hub team took a trip to the Varsity Centre to kick off Pride month at UofT’s Progress Pride flag raising ceremony.  

Pride Flag raising

The Progress Pride flag was designed in 2018 by American graphic designer Daniel Quasar, whose design incorporates elements from several historical versions of the flag. 

The rainbow base derives from a commonly used later iteration of artist and activist Gilbert Baker’s original 1978 rainbow pride flag. Each of the six colored stripes represents a different theme: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity, and purple for spirit. The resulting rainbow forms a symbol of hope and liberation for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Quasar’s design also merges in several other proposed additions to the flag, highlighting the presence of more specific identities within the larger LGBTQ+ community. The white, pink, and blue stripes from Monica Helms’s 1999 transgender pride flag represents trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse individuals. The black and brown stripes are a newer addition from Philadelphia City Hall in 2017 and symbolize the inclusion and contributions of queer people of color. The black stripe also commemorates the grief, loss, and stigma surrounding the AIDS crisis and people living with HIV. 

The Progress Pride flag incorporates the newer stripes in a chevron shape at the hoist of the flag. The arrow shape indicates forward movement within the community, while its position at the base of the flag shows that there is still a long way to go. The historical six rainbow stripes honour the community’s existing history while still leaving room for the chevron, which indicates special priorities for our continued growth. 

Speakers at UofT’s flag raising ceremony echoed these themes. Opening remarks highlighted the special importance of Pride in times of uncertainty, especially with shifting legislation in our neighboring United States. At times like these, institutions like UofT play an extra significant role in openly upholding their commitments to equity through events like the flag raising. 

After a few years of virtual programming and socially distanced Pride experiences, the atmosphere was lively and joyful. Attendees milled around buying Pride merchandise from the UofT bookstore, sampling gelato, or just chatting and enjoying the space. Members of our team even tried our hand at the carnival games offered on-site with varying levels of success.  

In all, the flag raising ceremony offered a welcome return to in-person celebration—but it also recognized the role of the university and its members in pushing progress forward, in line with the flag’s symbolism. 

Celebrating Pride in the Innovation Hub 

In addition to attending the flag-raising ceremony, Innovation Hub team members gathered last Friday to decorate our co-working space with rainbow colours. The team participated in two pride-related crafts.

We enjoyed using our hands as we decorated a large lion’s main in rainbow colours while discussing a question: what does pride mean to you? We also created pride-themed stained glass. Our team members really appreciated the opportunity to spend time together celebrating this important month by creating together.  

Looking Beyond June 

While June does provide an opportunity to get extra “loud and proud” about LGBTQ+ history, identity, and community, Pride is not just a one-time occasion. Fostering acceptance, resilience, and diversity can’t happen overnight, let alone during one month. 

So what actions can we take, outside of ceremonies and craft activities, to engage with Pride during the rest of the year?  

While Pride is a month-long event, it represents part of a larger cultural shift that requires action at many different levels. Change happens slowly, and it requires action from all of us across the year—even if you don’t identify as LGBTQ+, everyone has something to gain from challenging norms that box us in. 

Further readings: 

Resources available at UofT: 

Other ways to engage locally: 

  • Visit, volunteer, or donate to the Arquives, Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ archives;
  • Attend an event, volunteer, or donate to Toronto Pride;
  • Purchase from local queer vendors at the Toronto Queer Market in Barbara Hall Park;
  • Volunteer or become a member at the 519, a queer community center offering free programming near Church-Wellesley;
  • Support local queer-run businesses in the GTA and across North America on the Pink Pages;
  • Create a Positive Space campaign to foster a more equitable environment in your campus, club, division, or other organization.

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