Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois on the Orlando murders

Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois on the Orlando murders

Mathieu Chantelois. Photograph courtesy of Pride Toronto

Nothing could have prepared me for June 12. I heard it first from my mom, by text, while I was lying in bed on Sunday morning. She was heartbroken and worried about me. I plugged myself into the flurry of media coverage and sat in shock. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I called my parents to tell them I love them, and then I held my husband, Marcelo, and cried.

Like most Torontonians, Marcelo and I have very busy, active lives, and we’re both focused on about 100 different things on any given day. We are blessed with privilege and safety. We are conscious of that, and grateful for it. Over the past few years, my deepest concerns have been for the more disenfranchised segments of the queer community. I haven’t spent much time lately considering the threat of an all-out assault on a gay club in a North American city.

This tragedy serves as a reminder: any act of violence aimed at our vast community is a transgression against each of us individually, and vice versa. What makes it even more horrific is that the killer picked a Latin-themed dance night: now that we’ve seen the faces of the victims, we know that many queer Latino and Black lives were lost. We are all in this together, and none of us are safe until every last one of us is safe.

I don’t have all the words to describe the grief and sorrow I am feeling about the more than 100 innocent people who were murdered or injured at Pulse this past weekend. I don’t know the victims personally, but they are my family. They are my brothers and sisters—every one of them. What I can say, as the world tries to understand this horrible atrocity, is that I am certain my queer family will not be intimidated by the corrosive hatred of homophobia and transphobia. Our lives will go on, and their lives will be remembered—all forming part of our history as we move forward from here, together.

Because it is imperative that we honour these lives, Pride Toronto is dedicating its annual Pride Parade to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. On July 3rd, we will fill the streets of Toronto with love. Hundreds of thousands of people from all communities will come out to celebrate the strength and beauty of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. We will sing, dance, march, rally, and mourn, all in the name of diversity and inclusion.

Love conquers hate. Let’s all take care of each other and show our pride.

Mathieu Chantelois is the executive director of Pride Toronto.