David Furnish to lead Toronto’s 2015 Pride Parade as grand marshal
Toronto native, filmmaker and husband of superstar musician Elton John coming back to his roots for parade on June 28
By: Lauren Pelley Staff Reporter, April 28, 2015
When David Furnish visited his hometown while producing 2006 teen rom-com It's a Boy Girl
Thing , he noticed a plaque on the wall of the downtown Toronto high school where they were
shooting the film. It was an “umbrella message of support and tolerance” for all students,
regardless of their gender or sexuality, he recalled.
“I never thought I'd go back to a city like Toronto in my lifetime and walk into the front doors of
a school and see them so clearly proclaiming a message of tolerance and acceptance,” Furnish said.
“I was floored with pride.”
It's that pride for Toronto and the gay community that the Scarborough-raised filmmaker will
bring to the city as the just-announced grand marshal of the 2015 Pride Toronto Parade
on June 28.
“We're so lucky, and I'm so proud of Canada for being so progressive,” Furnish told the Star over
the phone from the U.K.
When Furnish first tried to come out to his mother at the age of 21, she sat at the table and cried,
unable to see a happy future for her son.
Back then, in the early 1980s, Furnish couldn't reassure her. Stigma surrounded the gay community.
AIDS dominated the news. And the prospect of a loving, legal marriage for someone like Furnish
“I was getting a degree in business at Western (University,)” he recalled. “There was no Tim Cook,
no David Geffen . . . all these people are present in society now and they're fantastic inspirations,
but you couldn't point to them (in the 1980s).”
Furnish, who “ran back in the closet again” after that chat with his mother, started a new life in
London, U.K., at 27, and eventually found love, happiness and a family across the pond
with his husband,
superstar musician Elton John — his partner of over 20 years — and their two young children, Zachary, 4 and Elijah, 2.
“I have to pinch myself, and I have to count my blessings, but not forget the people — and there's
so many unlike myself — who aren't in the lucky position I find myself,” Furnish said.
This will be Furnish's first time attending the Toronto parade, held during this year's Pride Week
from June 19 to 28 — one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, with an estimated
attendance of over 1.2 million.
He's using the visit to give back, appearing as the guest of honour at a private reception to benefit
Pride Toronto and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, of which
Furnish is the chairman. The event is being held by Canadian philanthropist Salah Bachir, a
Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research founding member and past Pride Toronto grand marshal.
AIDS is something that hits close to home for Furnish. “I watched lots of friends die very horrible, lonely, very stigmatized deaths, where they were filled with so much shame,” he said.
While stigma still surrounds the disease, medical advances have been life-changing, and Furnish noted that medications available today often allow people to live full, happy lives.
As for Pride, Furnish said he'll be coming by himself, leaving husband John — the pair officially tied the knot in December 2014 after gay marriage was legalized that year in England — and their two “little whirling dervishes” back home. He's looking forward to catching up with his family, who all still live in Toronto, and drawing attention to the areas and issues in the world where people still need support.
“I think equality is the most important one, and by equality I mean equality across the board in human rights terms. Everybody in society should be treated equally,” he said.
Source: Toronto Star
"Reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services"
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