photos: Tori Silvera

Peterborough Pride has been a part of the Peterborough community since 2003, when the event was officially recognized by Mayor Sylvia Sutherland.  In the last 10 years the event has grown from a parade to an entire week’s worth of celebrations, educational opportunities, and cross-community activities.   2011 marked the first year in which a Peterborough Mayor (Daryl Bennett) read the Pride Day Proclamation, a gesture repeated this year that Pride spokesperson Kim Dolan dubbed “a rare pleasure.”

Arthur  had a chance to catch up with Mayor Bennett, as well as Peterborough NDP Representative Dave Nickle and Pride organizational committee member Susan Galloway to get some official perspective on the local meaning of Pride.

*note: Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro and MPP Jeff Leal were not in attendance at the pride proclamation and flag raising, nor the parade itself. Arthur was not able to reach the representatives by publication time.

Mayor Daryl Bennett

What is your conception of what pride means to our community?

 DB: Pride, along with a lot of our other cultural activities in the community, forms a basis for what might be considered diversity and an approach to reaching out to all members of a vibrant community.

How does city council work to ensure visibility and respect for marginalized cultures such as the queer community?

DB: I think city council has a pretty keen understanding of what makes a community work. I think we tend to, on occasion, over focus our attention to the economic impact of what we do. But I think we are all in recognition of how important culture and cultural activities are to our community. I see the Pride in our community growing. This is the tenth year for the Pride parade and I think it is important that we keep our attention on all things that help build the strength of our community. I see that’s where this council’s focus has been and I see us moving towards that in the next couple of years.

Along the same lines, Pride, queer politics and municipal politics have not always seen eye-to-eye. What makes you personally interested in raising the flag and declaring the week?

DB: I think you are over generalizing. Some communities have not embraced the distinction of members within their community as well as they might have. I think Peterborough has done a reasonable job towards that. I think by continuing to be in recognition of our ability to promote diversification we move to a far broader and more understanding community in the future. History repeats itself. The Athenian society, many many years ago, were probably the most advanced if not the most advanced civilization of our time. They recognized the need to embrace diversification within their communities. Gays were part of and a recognized part of their culture. It is recognized here as well. We’re all as open as we can be, we’re all God’s children. Somebody’s God may take on a different approach to what that means to others but at the end of the day we are all created the same.

NDP Representative Dave Nickle:

When politicians talk about queer events we hear a lot of language surrounding “vibrant,” “cultural” and “diverse,” but not usually the language queer, LGBT or the language used within the community as I know it. Is there a need for a language shift or is there a reason why this official language is used?

DN: I think the best thing to do is talk to the community itself and find out what they find most acceptable. Not only do we need to make this a part of our mainstream community but make sure we are not offensive in anyway. But that’s who I would talk to. It doesn’t matter what I think or what the majority thinks. I would talk to the people in the community and find out what they think.

What is your conception of what Pride means to our community?

DN: Acceptance. I recently retired from Thomas A. Stewart after teaching for 31 years and I was very involved with the queer positive space there. One thing that I found with the youth I was working with was that they just wanted to go through their life and not deal with any added pressures. Growing up in this society is pressure enough. If you are queer curious or LBGT or even heterosexual, it’s a tough thing to go through and what is most important is acceptance so you can go through your life, love who you want to love, do what you want to do and achieve happiness. I think that is what we want for all of our kids.

With the closure of PCVS in downtown, there was a lot of talk, especially among the youth, about the loss of this safe space for queer students. What are you optimistic about regarding this decision?

DN: I am optimistic that those students, when they go to another school, are going to find a very safe space as well. We took great pride at TASS in being very accepting  of everyone. We saw, as teachers, so many different communities within the school that look after each other. What I envision, now that it looks like PCVS will continue to be an educational institution, I would hope that it would become a true community center with a daycare and drop-in center for youth with kitchen facilities. Also, making sure we continue to use it as an education institution but make sure it truly become a community hub, so it really does become a safe space for everyone.

Pride Organizational Committee Member Suzanne Galloway

When politicians talk about queer events, we hear a lot of language surrounding “vibrant,” “cultural” and “diverse” but not usually the language queer, LGBT or the language used within the community as I know it. Is there a need for a language shift or is there a reason why this official language started?

SG: I think I celebrate where we get to. We recognize that last year was the first year that the mayor actually read the proclamation and we are thrilled he’s here again today and wanted to make a real point about being here, even though there is some other big Peterborough event going on. So we certainly celebrate that. And I think that what we are doing that in the Pride community; I mean, more than ever we are remembering queer. And we are advocating around gay-straight alliances. There need to be gay-straight alliances. This is the first year we are doing a moment of silence during the parade and that’s to recognize that although we can celebrate and say “Woot, Yay Pride,” a lot of people in this community can’t, and certainly internationally a lot of people can’t. I think there are politics in different places and venues and certainly the moment of silence and some of the other events for us is where we can have our politics take hold a little bit more and the rest is just steps forward.

What is your conception of what Pride means to our community?

SG: I think that with sexism, racism and homophobia that we can tend to forget that those things are still very accurate and alive in many areas, especially smaller towns. And so it feels important that there is a vibrant showing, at least once a year and ideally more that says “hey, we’re queer and we’re proud and you are welcome to join us.” I think that is how people get hooked into the community where they feel safe and alive and accepted as well. So if you don’t have once a year where we are out saying “here we are,” how do people find the time? Certainly there are other things like queer bowling and queer martinis and queer running, there are tons of things that happen during the year, but you have to find a way to get hooked into that. I was listening to CBC not so long ago during Toronto Pride where there was a young man who was watching it on the television and decided to run down and join the parade. And that was the first time he ever went “wow, I’m ok,” so I know that happens here. I see people with tears in their eyes that come and belong.

You mentioned that this was only the second year that there was an official flag-raising and that the mayor wanted to be involved, and Kim Dolan mentioned that this was a “rare pleasure” why do you things are changing now?

SG: I think things are shifting in the sense that we are getting to a place where it is not ok to be homophobic. I think that it’s even in your interest to embrace LGBT communities and recognize that we are a key part of this community and in some cases economic drivers. The Pride Parade brings in a ton of tourism and activities run the whole week. I mean, just like you celebrate Arts Week, it’s really important to celebrate Pride because Pride has its own politics and recognition.