Celebrating Pride is important, not just during Pride Month

June 15, 2018 - 4:37pm Updated: June 18, 2018 - 3:43pm

PRIDE is a riot!

As a straight cisgender ally that sits on the board for the Central Alberta Pride Society, I have been privileged enough to never have to fight oppression, scrutiny, judgement, or live in fear for my sexual orientation or gender identity.

Unlike my LGBTQ+ community, friends and family, I’ve never had to worry about my personal safety when I kiss my husband in public or be told that I’m an abomination. This is not me being passionate for ‘gay rights,’ this is me believing strongly in Human Rights. It’s confusing to me that anyone would not be supportive in creating a safe, inclusive, accepting environment and to celebrate the diversity of everyone. Don’t we all have the right to be our authentic self?

The fear of things that we don’t understand, can’t relate to personally or haven’t seen much of first-hand generally is bred of ignorance. That ignorance plus fear are the root of hate crimes. It’s crucial to our survival as a progressive society to move away from social stigmas.

For most of my LGBTQ+ community, Pride is still a protest and this is important to acknowledge. Many of us forget that it was initiated in order to make political statements and correct gross injustices towards LGBTQ+ communities, primarily against police violence. Even more of us forget that among those who started the Stonewall riots were gay and transgender people of colour.

Somewhere between the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and now it began to turn into a highly corporate celebration for much of Europe and North America. It has been 49 years now since Stonewall, yet only 22 years ago Sexual Orientation was added to the Canadian Charter of Human Rights. Marriage equality was achieved only 13 years ago and adding Gender Identity and Expression the Canadian Charter of Human Rights was accomplished only one year ago this month. Many groups under the LGBTQ+ umbrella have reason to celebrate, these were hard earned battles that took decades to fight. But while we are getting there; we still have a long way to go. I can only imagine the joy in our aging LGBTQ+ population who grew up fighting for their rights and their lives seeing how Pride has evolved. I’d like to think that our LGBTQ+ youth will feel the same way in their golden years.

Anti-discrimination rights are just the beginning and police violence still exists 49 years later. The views of the Black Lives Matter movement and its effect on pride parades recently shouldn’t be that surprising considering our roots, the simple fact is that many people of colour are also in our LGBTQ+ community. Removing police officers from some parades in protest makes sense. If we silence those in our community in order to only celebrate, then the important and intended purpose of the Pride movement gets lost in a time where the voice of those in it must still be heard.

However, Pride is also a celebration!

It’s an opportunity to joyfully acknowledge and respect the steps we have taken as an entire society. It’s a time to reflect on the progress Pride made breaking through the stigma and hate, even if it is still prevalent today. Being a tolerant society is not enough for me. Tolerance by definition is the ability of willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.

The reality is that being discriminated from employment for being ‘out and proud’ still exists. Homelessness, poverty, physical abuse, mental abuse, and lack of medical understanding or acknowledgment still disproportionately affects so many.

For me, the ‘straight cisgender girl’, I will celebrate and advocate this years RED DEER PRIDE WEEK (August 12-19) to show my support and encourage everyone to throw themselves into the pot we call life, together. You may just learn something, or save someone’s life - perhaps your own children. We have an incredible lineup of events for Pride Week. Attend and show your support.

I am loud and proud for my LGBTQ+ community and I urge you to be too. Try it out. It's actually pretty easy. The more difficult part, for some, is to learn to listen to those that come forward. Help fight for their rights and use your voice to bring awareness to the issues affecting them. Don’t limit yourself to just Pride Month. Do it everyday.

Stephanie Lee Rhodes & Natalie Nielsen

Central Alberta Pride Society

 

NOTE: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of rdnewsNOW or the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group. Column suggestions and letters to the editor can be sent to [email protected]ewsNOW.com.

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