But one group is angry that organizers denied their petition to join the procession: Cirque de So Gay, a group of gay and trans men of Middle Eastern descent, submitted an application describing its float, which would have participants wearing burkas with little on underneath. It was a symbolic gesture, the group explains, “casting off the shroud of oppression to unveil the Persian princess beneath.”
“The Islamic attire is more than just a piece of black fabric,” the description detailed. “It’s a tool used by governments to impose absolute control and authority over their citizens and even tourists.”
Cirque de So Gay has marched in the Vancouver Pride parade wearing burkas before—and even won an award for originality—but this year its design was rejected for being “culturally insensitive.”
Co-founder Shawn Shirazi says Vancouver Pride is being hypocritical. It’s true that the Sisters of the Perpetual Indulgence appear at Pride parades worldwide wearing a pastiche of nuns’ habits.
But Vancouver Pride Society’s director Andrea Arnot says Cirque de So Gay was making light of a complex issue and mocking a marginalized group. In January, a gunman opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City, killing six and wounding 19 more.
“Many women choose to wear burkas,” Arnot explained. “It’s part of their identity, their religion and their culture,” she said. “Of course, there are places where it’s enforced. When I asked other people who are from that cultural or religious background, they said it was offensive.”
The society also addressed demands by Black Lives Matter members, who wanted to bar police from marching in the 39th annual event. In a compromise, organizers allowed police and RCMP to march, but asked that fewer officers wear their uniforms and barred patrol cars and armored vehicles.