Yesterday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told the press that he plans to skip Toronto Pride next weekend. While this news was about as surprising as Lady Gaga declaring she will not be attending the next Republican National Convention, it was nevertheless met with much shock and outrage. Marcus Gee in the Globe all-but-begged Ford to reconsider and a great many more expressed disappointment that Ford’s snubbing our city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities on their big day “sends the wrong message.”
But it doesn’t. It sends exactly the message Ford intends: I don’t give a shit. And it shouldn’t be news to anyone who’s paid any attention to him.
Yet Gee writes, “Whether he means to or not, he has left the unfortunate and probably mistaken impression that he has a problem with gays and lesbians.”
Mistaken? It’s not as if this unfortunate impression is new. In May 2010, during the mayoral campaign, Ford had to defend himself against his own moronic comments on AIDS from 2006. As he huffed in response:
“You know what’s ironic is, I have a lot of gay people on my campaign, a lot of gay friends. To paint this picture that Rob Ford doesn’t like gays is comical. This is an act of desperation. They can’t come after your record so they’re going to go after your character.”
Politicians love to keep making this distinction, as if one’s record and character don’t continually influence each other in an ongoing cycle, but here, Ford was and is entirely wrong — we can go after his record.
Just three months after his some-of-my-best-friends schtick, Ford was bizarrely declaring his unrequested support for “traditional marriage” and, as Mayor, he has voted against the interests of queer people on several issues and refused to attend any LGBT community events, even the ones held at City Hall (What, too far to travel?)
It’s cute that Gee and clearly so many others still give Ford the benefit of the doubt on this one but it’s getting embarrassing when smarter brother Doug (forever the Cheney to Rob’s Bush) feels the need to step in and assure us all that Mayor Ford treats all people, gay or straight, just the same. Great — now I’m worried for the straight people too.
Ford could stop having to defend himself against accusations of homophobia if he could stop, you know, displaying it but ultimately, he doesn’t care about queer people because he doesn’t have to. The people who voted him in don’t. They just think he’ll lower their taxes. How he’ll do that while damaging Pride, a cultural institution that brings in billions of tourist dollars, remains to be seen.
And that bigger struggle is why it’s great that Rob Ford isn’t attending Pride. Truly. Because at some point, sometime soon, he’ll start taking his giant piece of bread to mop up all that gravy (oh leave me alone, it’s his metaphor, not mine) and he’ll start cutting programs and services vital to queer people. He’ll cut funding to social services, youth programs, AIDS education, anything he thinks won’t matter to his perceived base of indifferent heterosexuals.
And when he does start scorching our earth, the very LAST thing I want to hear him say is, “Hey, I love the gays — I marched in their Pride parade, didn’t I?”
Of Ford’s terrible reputation amongst LGBT people, Gee concludes, “Marching in Pride would erase that impression. In an afternoon, he could clear away any questions about his supposed prejudices.”
Just like that, eh? No thanks. It’s one big reason why Toronto Pride is, for once, better off without its mayor.