Black Lives Matter
Over the past twenty years our co-op has consciously (perhaps subconsciously) tried to be as publicly apolitical as possible outside of the arena of sexual rights, pleasure, health, and education. As we understand it, the rationale for this decision was about ensuring that our shop would be open and accessible to all people who want to make their sexual world a better place regardless of their particular political stripes. Whether you're conservative, liberal, NDP, marxist-leninist, anarchist, or libertarian, we believe that you have the right to your sexuality whatever it may be - as long as it is based in active and enthusiastic consent. We will always believe this and we will always support your right to actualize your sexual self no matter who you are or what you believe in.
Between the horror in Orlando and Toronto's overwhelmingly racist response to the Black Lives Matter protest at Pride (not to mention the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police, and the shootings in Dallas which all happened in the time it took to put together this newsletter), we are finding it harder and harder to bury our sadness and anger for the sake of the larger project of sexual liberation for all. Further, as people who try to have an intersectional approach to life, and as people who have ourselves long felt alienated by Pride Toronto, we're having a lot of feelings about these past couple of weeks and about Black Lives Matter generally.
Honestly, we're so completely heartbroken by the reaction BLM's protest has provoked in Toronto - and the non-response when the lives of people of colour here and in the USA are taken by police. We are just stunned that people seem to be having such a violent knee-jerk reaction to what was a completely peaceful and well needed protest. It doesn't take much digging to uncover the very political roots of Pride: Stonewall was a protest lead by queer and trans people of colour against police, and Toronto's first Pride was held in response to the bathhouse raids by police. It is unsurprising that a large number of queer and trans people - especially people of colour and sex workers - would be left feeling a deep sense of unease and would take offense at the way Toronto's police participate in Pride. As people who are ourselves pretty marginalized, our co-op cannot sit back and stay silent while a vocal and violent strain of our society gets center stage with the media - social and otherwise.
It is hard to not become complicit in all of the evil that happens in this world. It is actually inescapable. In the sex industry alone racism pervades every book (educational and otherwise), sex workshop (how many Black sex educators do you know? how many Indigenous sex educators?), every single "flesh" coloured dildo (you can guess what colour "flesh" is), every porn (actors of colour get paid less to do more, and you have to swallow the racist epithets on the cover if you want to see a Black cast) not to mention the fetishization of people of colour in all of the above and the violence against queer and trans sex workers of colour by police and clients. Whew.
We work hard to try to filter out racist content when doing the work we do - we review every product we stock and every sex educator we host and we won't carry any product that comes in only one skin tone - but the reality is that we need to reconcile our personal politics with our professional ones once and for all. If the Black Lives Matter protest at Pride teaches our city anything at all, I hope it is that our identities and orientations are inseparable and that if Black lives don't matter, none of our lives matter.