So Rob Ford confirmed yesterday that he will not be marching in this year’s Pride parade due to a previous commitment to be at the cottage with his family on the long weekend. This comes on the heels of the mayor’s conspicuous absence at a string of Pride- and LGBT-related events, some of which took place within shouting distance of his office at City Hall.
This will be the first time a Toronto mayor has missed the parade in more than a decade. June Rowlands was the last Toronto mayor to not march.
And, sure, if he was missing the parade but had committed to make an appearance at another Pride event, I’d cut him some slack. It’s nice to be out of town for the Canada Day weekend. But it is impossible to separate the mayor’s refusal to attend the Pride parade with his continued and apparently deliberate snubbing of any event put on by the LGBT community.
Is the mayor homophobic? He’s making it difficult to conclude otherwise. Not only does his voting record include bombshells like voting against accepting provincial money for HIV screening programs and hanging banners for the International AIDS Conference, he has also expressed support for “traditional marriage”, backed an anti-gay candidate in a council race, openly expressed the retrograde opinion that HIV is a gay disease and — this one bothers me the most — couldn’t be bothered to leave his office for twenty minutes to raise a flag on the roof of City Hall for Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays alongside the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s a lot to take in, and the mental gymnastics necessary to avoid landing on “backwards homophobe” are daunting. But we — the collective we — hate labels, naturally, so let’s try. Let’s try and come up with scenarios where the mayor is not a homophobe.
Scenario #1: This is all just a big misunderstanding
You know how it is. Sometimes you’re just going about your duties as a politician in Toronto and one thing leads to another and — through no fault of your own — suddenly people are calling you a homophobe. And, yes, you can see how some might come to that conclusion but really it’s just a big misunderstanding.
Put it this way: Maybe Rob Ford and the LGBT community are like the principal characters in the John Cusack romantic comedy Serendipity. They’re meant to be together — they yearn to be together — but a series of unfortunate coincidences keeps them apart. Eventually, though, after years of confusion and near-miss chance encounters, they’ll meet in a park with falling snow and kiss and kiss and kiss.
Let’s give the mayor the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there is a remote possibility that his schedule has just not allowed him to attend events like the aforementioned PFLAG flag raising or the “Proud of Toronto” event or the coming reading of the Pride proclamation. You might find that hard to believe considering that, within only the last couple of months, the mayor has found time to attend events as varied as McHappy Day celebrations, an ice cream party thrown by Ivanka Trump and the grand opening of the studios for the Sun News Network. He’s also continued to find time to coach high school football in Etobicoke.
So, yes, hard to believe. But stranger things have happened.
Scenario #2: The mayor buys into the Post-Mo theory so whole-heartedly that he sees no reason to attend Pride-related events
Bear with me on this one, as it sort of hinges on the mayor being a bit of an intellectual who reads alt-weekly newspapers. But let’s consider that Rob Ford read Paul Aguirre-Livingston’s “Dawn of the New Gay” cover story in The Grid a couple of weeks back and has now fully embraced the notion that Toronto has moved past all this LGBT stuff and Pride is an unnecessary relic; a boozed-up and needlessly decadent spectacle that’s no longer politically relevant. The struggle is over.
Sure, this requires ignoring that gay bashing hate crimes still happen in Toronto. And that GTA area publicly-funded school boards are banning both Gay-Straight Alliances and, seriously, rainbows. And that local commenters are currently flooding newspaper comment boards with anti-gay slurs in support of the mayor’s decision to go to his cottage. But still. Let’s chalk that kind of thing up to omelettes and eggs.
Maybe Rob Ford is a visionary. Ahead of the curve. Maybe what he’s saying is that all of us — gay, straight, whatever — should head to their cottages during Pride, celebrating inclusivity with collective exclusivity. Let’s be together alone.
Note that some of you — especially those that are not savvy enough to hold stake in a multi-million dollar family business — will have to go to cottages in your imagination.
Scenario #3: Something about secret agents and robots
I won’t bore with you the details but consider for a minute that the mayor is currently leading a double life, spending half his time undercover working against rogue elements seeking to subvert the gay agenda….
Wait, no, this is dumb. No one will believe this.
I’m spent. I can’t justify these decisions Rob Ford has made, and it doesn’t make sense that the mayor of a city like Toronto — the Toronto I know — would make the choices he’s made. About the only thing I can say in his defence sincerely is that I think Ford is a man who doesn’t do well in situations that might be awkward and uncomfortable. He craves control and familiarity. These aren’t necessarily bad qualities for a person to have, but the way those qualities are influencing his behaviour as mayor are justifiably disappointing to a wide cross-section of the city he was elected to represent.
There’s nothing here to be proud of.