Metrolinx kicks off Pride month – meet the transit agency’s Pride committee chairs

With Pride month officially in full swing, Metrolinx is ready to kick things off. Keep reading to learn what Pride means to Metrolinx, as told by the transit agency’s Pride 365 committee chairs.

Pride month is here, and in-person festivities are back. And this means a lot to the employees at Metrolinx and the broader LGBTQ2S+ community.

The members of Pride 365, an employee resource group (ERG) at the transit agency, have worked hard to put together lots of events for this year’s Pride month and beyond.

To learn more about the importance of Pride at Metrolinx, Metrolinx News spoke to Adam Jagdat, Valeria Leon and Kam Somji, co-chairs of the Metrolinx Pride 365 committee.

All three co-chairs explain why Pride is so significant for each of them.

“Prior to moving to Canada, I lived in Africa, which is where I’m from. Coming from a country where being gay is punishable by jail time, it was a nice change to be celebrated as such, and protected,” said Kam Somji, commercial management specialist at Metrolinx.

“I left Africa because I couldn’t be who I was there, but one of the ways that I could give back and build a community here was joining the Pride 365 ERG.”

Being part of Pride month has allowed Somji to finally celebrate his identity. “Pride month is a way for me to reclaim the time that I lost, without feeling shame about who I am and my sexuality,” he said.

A man wears a 'Ride with Pride' T-shirt next to a GO bus wrapped in a similar rainbow pattern.
A Metrolinx employee during the unveiling of the 2019 Ride with Pride GO bus. (Metrolinx photo)

Valeria Leon, senior commercial management analyst at Metrolinx, also joined Pride 365 as an immigrant from Mexico in 2017 – where same-sex marriage is legal, but not as welcomed.

“Personally, I still struggle with my family back in my country – they don’t accept my relationship – but over here, I have chosen my family, and they’re very supportive. It’s so nice to be part of this organization and a country that has acceptance for people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

A Toronto native and senior brand advisor at Metrolinx, Adam Jagdat is thankful for the acceptance he was met with after coming out at 19. He aims to use his role as co-chair of Pride 365 to give back to those who do not have the same freedoms.

“For me, what Pride month represents is: I need to be the one to show up and be there for those who don’t have it as well as I do,” he said.

“We owe a lot to the people before us, and it’s up to us to continue that for those younger than us.”

For the first time since the pandemic, Pride festivities will occur in person this year.

“In 2020 and 2021, we still showed up as an organization, and continued speaking about the importance of [Pride]. Just because COVID hit, didn’t mean that the protest had to end,” said Jagdat.

“But I’m so happy we’re able to do that in person again – it means so much more to see all the colours, lights glowing and the smiling faces throughout the entire month.”

Adam Jagdat brought his mom to the 2019 Pride parade. (Adam Jagdat photo)

Leon agreed that the last few years have been challenging because Pride was virtual. “You just don’t get the same energy of the people,” she explained.

This year, Somji is proud to be attending the parade with his partner. “In addition to being able to march together, this is also his first Pride parade. So, it’s going to be super special.”

At Metrolinx, the spirit doesn’t end when Pride month is over.

With the first-ever in-person Global Black Pride happening in Toronto at the end of July, the Pride 365 ERG is working to meet Metrolinx’s goal of intersectionality.

“We’re working closely [with the Black Employee Experience at Metrolinx ERG] to ensure that we participate with meaning and importance,” Jagdat said.

“It’s nice that we have such great internal resources with our various marginalized communities, that we can show up and be there with meaning, purpose and action.”

The team kicked off Global Black Pride on May 17th – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – and welcomed Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the director of Global Black Pride.

The Pride 365 co-chairs said they will be working with Opoku-Gyimah again, and will ensure to share more content internally and externally about the importance of Global Black Pride.

Last year’s Pride bus entered regular service in late June, and could be seen throughout the summer. (Metrolinx photo)

Since day one, Pride 365 has aimed to create spirit and acceptance year-round.

“Pride doesn’t just start June 1st and end June 30th – it continues on throughout the year, and that’s how we enable our fellow employees to be themselves,” Jagdat said.

The ERG is committed to keeping the celebrations going beyond June by engaging with the community in various channels, holding events and welcoming new members.

At the end of the day, Pride month – and pride in general – is about acceptance.

“Pride will always be a protest, until we get to that fundamental baseline level of rights, protections and freedoms for all of us in the community across the world.”

Stay tuned for more Pride announcements and events Metrolinx has planned by checking Metrolinx News and visiting the Metrolinx social media platforms.

Story by Abby Zinman, Metrolinx editorial co-op student