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Pride Champions

June 15, 2021
Pride Champions Thom Allison, Charlotte Carbone, Jade Pichette and Christian Hui

In celebration of Pride 2021, we are spotlighting four alumni who are champions of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Meet Thom Allison, Charlotte Carbone, Jade Pichette and Christian Hui. Learn about what Pride means to them, why they say it’s important to celebrate and their advice for those in the community going through a tough time. Happy Pride!

Prime Chapmion Thom Allison
Thom Allison, Actor

Pronouns: He/Him

Can you tell us about yourself and your work/career?

Originally from Winnipeg, I came to Toronto to go to Ryerson University Theatre School ... ahem ... many years ago. My father was Black from Nova Scotia, and my mother was Mennonite — the whitest of whites. They were married for 56 years — until my father passed. But they instilled a great joy for life and an easy non-acceptance of other people's deciding my worth. I have been fortunate that I've worked as an actor more or less all of my life. I've spent five seasons at the Stratford Festival, three seasons at the Shaw Festival, and I've been on Broadway, as well as the major Canadian regional theatres. I've been nominated for eight theatre awards and won a Canadian Screen Award (Canada's Emmy). As my career was building, I realized that other people of colour (POC) watched to see what was possible, and I've tried to use my success to open possibilities for other POC.  

Why is Pride important to you?

For me, Pride remains a reminder of what has been fought for and what is still at stake — acceptance, freedom, rights, dignity, humanity. As a Black, queer artist, I'm very aware that there is still lots of work to be done.

Is there one person or group of people you'd describe as your champion or ally who supported you during your journey?

I've been lucky to have a handful of incredible mentors:

  • Winnipeg actor Nancy Drake — who taught me the fundamentals of acting (Nancy recently passed on)
  • Toronto-based Peggy Redmond — my singing teacher at Ryerson University, who taught me to understand singing through textual specificity (who also recently passed on)
  • Artistic Director of Young People's Theatre, Allen MacInnis — who taught me about selflessness and generosity as a director

But the one person who has been a constant is my best friend, Krista Jackson — actress, director, former Associate Artistic Director of Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and a Ryerson University Alumni. She has never wavered in her belief in my ability or potential, and she has been an inspiration to me since I was 12. She is always learning, asking questions, growing, expanding. She has had a huge impact on my artistic and personal growth.

Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share with individuals struggling to be accepted (either by others or themselves?)

Whenever possible — don't spend time or energy giving a crap about what anyone thinks about or says. Know that you have worth simply by rights of the fact that you are here.  What you think, feel and desire has value. And ultimately, know that you have CHOICE.  No matter what happens to you — good or bad — the next moment is up to you. How you choose to walk away and what you choose to take away from that moment is up to YOU.

Pride Champion Charlotte Carbone
Charlotte Carbone, Fashion Designer

Pronouns: She/Her

Can you tell us about yourself and your work/career?

I graduated from X University in 2018 and have since become a full-time product developer in the fashion industry. I develop licensed apparel for big box stores across Canada. Outside of my day job, I freelance as a graphic and fashion designer for a variety of projects. I am always looking to challenge myself and make genuine connections with people.

Why is Pride important to you?

Pride is important to me because it is a celebration of queer existence, an existence that is often challenged, diminished, and threatened. It is a time for non-queer people to engage in activism and conversation and question how they can support queer people in their lives. It is a time for queer people to be openly recognized and compensated by institutions and corporations. I came out during university, and Toronto Pride was a place for me to connect more easily with other queer people. In queer spaces, there is an unspoken understanding, and that is comforting and freeing. Pride may be the month of June in honour of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, but queer people are thriving year-round.

Is there one person or group of people you'd describe as your champion or ally who supported you during your journey?

My core friends who have become my chosen family over the years. Allyship is not a singular act of passive belief. Allyship is the consistent and persistent support of all the identities I fall under. I am a queer Asian-adoptee woman, so my closest relationships are with people who overlap with at least one of these identities.

Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share with individuals struggling to be accepted (either by others or themselves?)

To those struggling to be accepted, I would like to say I see you. I see all of you. Acceptance should not come at your expense, and there is a whole community ready to embrace you even if you feel like a mess. It is a process of trial and error to find safe and supportive circles, but it is rewarding when you do. Compromising your identity, sugar coating your queerness so it fits mainstream tastes does not serve you. However, I acknowledge that being queer can be a feat of survival, and surviving may mean denying or hiding your full self. It is a privilege to be out on your own terms. I hope you find a safe space to heal and grow.

Pride Champion Jade Pichette
Jade Pichette, Inclusion, Accessibility, Diversity and Equity Professional

Pronouns: They/Them

Jade Pichette, Masters in Social Work ’13, is an inclusion and diversity consultant specializing in LGBTQ2+ inclusion and belonging. They currently serve as the Manager of Programs at Pride at Work Canada. In this role, Jade works with over 150 large employers across Canada around sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression inclusion. In their previous roles, Jade worked as the Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator at the ArQuives, the Education Programs Coordinator at Kind Space, and they also run an independent inclusion and diversity consulting business.

Why is Pride important to you?

Pride is something that I live with every day. For me, it is a celebration honouring all the activists who came before me, as well as a moment for my chosen family to come together and connect. Pride is every step I take as a visibly and openly queer and trans person in defiance of the violence I and others have experienced.

Honestly, these days because doing 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion work has become my career; Pride is also a time of high workload and stress. I see it as an opportunity to push issues of queer and trans liberation forward. Sometimes I joke that I hate Pride because of the stress it can cause. But it is the lack of authenticity that I see others come to Pride season with that bothers me. Every moment throughout the year that two or more queer people are together can be Pride. Every moment that a queer person stands up on their own, it can be Pride. Every time we remember the struggles of the past, it is Pride. I see those small moments throughout the year as my Pride and why it is important.

Is there one person or group of people you'd describe as your champion or ally who supported you during your journey?

As I came out quite young as pansexual and genderqueer, my journey has been a bit different. I am so grateful for my mom through that [journey] because although she didn't always understand my being trans, she accepted it. I am thankful that she started bringing me to Pride when I was ten and that her coming out to me provided space for me to later come out to her. My mom has always been my champion.

I also want to honour the trans elders I met later in life who have provided me with guidance, inspiration, and a history. These include people like Jamie Lee Hamilton (1955–2019), Monica Forrester, and Rupert Raj. It is due to trans elders that I keep persevering to focus my career on making Canada a more inclusive place.

Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share with individuals struggling to be accepted (either by others or themselves?)

The legacy of two-spirit, trans, and queer people is one of magic, beauty, creativity, strength and ultimately love. There are others out there who will treat you with the love and respect that you deserve. Learning about our histories and queer ancestors is an act of resistance, and queer liberation starts from within.

Pride Champion Christian Hui
Christian Hui, Co-founder of Ontario Positive Asians, Canadian Positive People Network

Pronouns: He/They

Can you tell us about yourself and your work/career?

My name is Christian Hui (he/they; serostatus: undetectable). I am a queer settler BIPOC first-generation doctoral student in policy studies with graduate training in social work. I have supported members of diverse communities within the HIV/AIDS and harm reduction responses for a decade and have co-founded two independent networks of people living with HIV: Ontario Positive Asians and the Canadian Positive People Network. This Pride Month, I will be speaking at “Building Strength: Past, Present and Future — A panel on HIV/AIDS” organized by the YMCA of Greater Toronto with fellow panellists Tim McCaskell (AIDS Action Now!) and Stella Osajie (ACT). I am also humbled and honoured to co-host the virtual Toronto Candlelight AIDS Vigil. Both events will take place on Tuesday, June 22. 

Why is Pride important to you?

Pride is important to me as it acknowledges and celebrates the beauty and diversity of the 2SLGBTIQ+ people across all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Being a long-term survivor living with HIV, Toronto's Pride is as meaningful as the Toronto Candlelight AIDS Vigil on Tuesday evening before the Pride Sunday Weekend. This event commemorates those who have passed on due to the global AIDS pandemic and honours those living with the chronic health condition. I wish to express my gratitude to all trans, queer, and AIDS activists who mobilized to fight against police brutality at the bathhouse raids and paved the way for a contemporary society with many forms of love, gender, sex, identities, relationships and expressions are celebrated.

Is there one person or group of people you’d describe as your champion or ally who supported you during your journey?

One of the groups I would like to commend, and honour is Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), Canada's only 2SLGBTIQ+ and HIV/AIDS community-based organization to support East and Southeast Asians. This organization has served as my second home for a decade and has in recent years co-organized PinkDotTO, an Asian Pride Event in May during Asian Heritage Month, but happening on June 20 this year. In terms of an individual, I would like to honour the late Derek Yee, a queer Toronto-born HIV/AIDS activist and artist of Trinidadian-Chinese heritage. He served as my mentor, friend, colleague and peer, a community giant who built bridges across the diverse communities of people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto and helped co-found Ontario Positive Asians (OPA+). Without Derek’s support, I wouldn't be where I am today. 

Is there a piece of advice you’d like to share with individuals struggling to be accepted (either by others or themselves?)

First, know that the Canadian Charter of Freedoms prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, while the Canadian Human Rights Act protects sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. So speak up and take a stance against homophobia and transphobia. Second, wherever you may be, know that there are others like you out there and a community that will accept you for who you are. Third, if you have not learned about Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U), please do so and know that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus sexually to others. I wish everyone a wonderful, safe, healthy and connected Pride 2021!

Materials on this page were current at time of publication.