With just one month to go until the 27th annual Pride & Remembrance Run, Toronto economist and 2SLGBTQ+ advocate Brett House reflects on why he’s been participating in the Run since 2004…
By Andrew Perez
Brett House loves to run. He’s been a runner since he was a kid and sees the sport as a “pure and simple form of fitness.”
The prominent Toronto economist, Niagara region native, and longtime 2SLGBTQ+ advocate first participated in the Pride & Remembrance Run in June 2004 during a visit to Toronto when he was working at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C.
House was drawn to the Run for several reasons that continue to make it an iconic annual event across the 2SLGBTQ+ community and beyond.
“Initially, I was interested in connecting with the queer community and fundraising for a great cause,” says House, who serves on The 519’s Board of Directors. The 519, a City of Toronto agency that has supported the city’s queer community since 1975, is one of the five charitable beneficiaries of this year’s Run.
The remaining four beneficiaries include the Asian Community AIDS Services, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and The Pride and Remembrance Foundation.
Since 1996, the Pride & Remembrance Run has raised more than $2.7 million for beneficiary organizations doing high impact work for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in the GTA and across Canada.
The 2023 beneficiaries stand out for their efforts to support members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community who continue to face intersectional forms of marginalization.
“As a Board member of The 519, we’re truly grateful for the philanthropy that’s coming from the Run to fund the variety of programs and services we provide to support the causes highlighted by both pride and remembrance in this event,” says House.
Having participated in the Run for nearly 20 years, House brings a unique perspective when reflecting on the annual event since his first experience in 2004.
“What’s special about the Run is the broad sweep of the community comes out so you end up seeing a whole bunch of people that you might not see at a dance or a party.”
Over the past two decades, House recalls seeing several high-profile members of the queer community take part in the Run. He singles out longtime “friend of the Run” Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s former premier, who has laced up her runners for the cause every single year since the late 1990s.
“It’s really inspiring to live in a city, province and country where a political leader that was loved by some, not celebrated by others, take part in an event like the Pride & Remembrance Run interacting with hundreds of people without security,” says House.
“It’s a testament to the culture of the city and the Run itself.”
House says this year’s theme of “Remember your why” resonates with him personally as a gay man who came of age throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s when the AIDS epidemic ravaged queer communities across Canada and the world.
He says it’s notable that the first Run took place in 1996 just as antiretroviral drugs were coming on to the market and changing the immediate face of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in places like Toronto.
Given this relatively recent history, House says it’s important to remember the roots of the Run and the reasons why we fundraise: for example, to support vital community services for people living with HIV-AIDS.
“Long before COVID-19 arrived, the 2SLGBTQ+ learned how to come together and fight a public health crisis,” says House. “But the epidemic is still here – we continue to see differential rates of HIV infection in marginalized communities versus mainstream and well-integrated communities in Toronto and Ontario, highlighting the need for continued fundraising.”
House says the Run’s prominence in Toronto’s queer community has only been heightened in recent years, given that once iconic events like the Annual AIDS Walk are no longer a feature of the Toronto queer community’s Pride calendar.
“What’s so special about the Run is that – like Toronto – it has become more diverse and inclusive over the years. Today, we see many more straight and non-queer allies participating in the Run, strong support from running clubs and broader support from corporate sponsors and public officials.”
“Increased diversity in the Run needs to be reflected in increased diversity and inclusivity in the way we respond to what is still an ongoing pandemic that continues to impact our community.”
Keep watching the Pride & Remembrance Run website and social media for details on how to volunteer with the 2023 Run.
ANDREW PEREZ is a Toronto-based public affairs professional, freelance writer and political activist. Andrew also serves as the media and communications director on the Board of Directors of the 2022–2023 Pride & Remembrance Association, and has been actively involved in organizing this year’s Run.
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