It’s the 13th anniversary of Peterborough Pride this year, and Arthur is in on the action! The first Peterborough Pride was held in 2003 after then-Mayor Sylvia Sutherland proclaimed September 16th official Pride Day. From the beginning, Pride in Peterborough was spearheaded by the students of Trent and Fleming and it is for this very reason that Peterborough Pride continues to be held in September. Pride organizer Rick Lambert stressed the idea that celebrations are held this time of year so that students can participate in the festivities as they have since its inception.
Pride events across the country have drawn national attention this year. Prime Minister Trudeau became the first sitting PM to march in a Pride event, participating in the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver Pride parades. Whether he was marching alone or accompanied by his family, PM Trudeau’s participation in national pride events provides a strong message for Canadians; that the LGBTQ+ community are part of the fabric of our country and deserve the rights, respect and equality afforded to all Canadians.
Local Pride organizer Rick Lambert correlates PM Trudeau’s marches as the living embodiment of his father, Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 Legislation Bill C-150, which decriminalized homosexuality in Canada. The open and inclusive action of our current leadership in Canada stands in stark contrast to regressive policies abroad, in nations such as Russia. Russia’s current anti-LGBTQ+ laws essentially encourage state sanctioned violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Although PM Trudeau is yet to take any official legislative action to confront contemporary challenges faced by the community, Pride organizers feel his example is a step in the right direction in terms of acceptance and equality for LGBTQ+ people in Canada.
Although Peterborough is generally safe and accepting for LGBTQ+ people, there are still struggles associated with identifying as part of the spectrum. Currently, the fight for trans rights exemplifies this. Trans people are perhaps the most visibly identifiable group within the LGBTQ+ acronym and can therefore face the brunt of the problems surrounding discrimination. When asked about the challenges faced in our local community, Rick Lambert identified trans people as the most affected locally.
“Issues around housing and jobs are some of the key problems faced by trans community members. Often they are given veiled excuses for not being hired or a refusal to rent, but it really boils down to discrimination.” This type of prejudice is of course illegal, but can be very hard to identify and prove. Lambert and other champions believe the best way to combat the problem is better education for landlords and employers about discrimination and human rights. However, some encouraging progress has been made for trans teens in Ontario. Recently the Ontario branch of Hockey Canada posted transgender-inclusive policies for the upcoming season, stating that players can use the changing room which corresponds to their gender identity, must be addressed with their pronoun of choice and have the confidentiality of their transgender status protected. These policies are a huge step forward for the protection of trans rights in athletics and in encouraging trans people to pursue team sports.
Education is of course one of the key goals of Peterborough Pride. In a press release describing this year’s festivities, Peterborough Pride states: “We promote a justice-seeking future through education and advocacy so that all may participate fully in the life and work of the City of Peterborough and surrounding area with dignity and respect.” Of the 35 Pride month events held from Sept 16 to 25 many of them have an educational aspect. Peterborough Pride represents and advocates for all of the groups included in their acronym LGBTTQI2-S. If the additional letters appear overwhelming, here is the breakdown: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex and two spirited. Too often, we lump all of the letters in the acronym together without acknowledging that each represents its own homogenous community with distinct challenges and goals.
The variety of events supported by Peterborough Pride and its community partners helps to break down that generalization, bring a greater understanding of the LGBTQ+ community as whole and highlight the separate interests of each group. For instance, the Living Library which was showcased as part of the Trans Day of Resilience allowed attendees to ‘check out’ individual trans participants, learn about their personal journeys, ask them questions and hopefully come away with a more full understanding of the joys and struggles of being a trans person.
The theme of this year’s Pride celebrations has been “Love Wins.” The Pride Guide produced by Peterborough Pride explains that it is “a message of hope that whatever happens, if we focus on love which we all need, people will make the right choices and positive change is inevitable over time.” Love and joy are recurring themes for Pride festivals across the country. Locally there have certainly been many love connections made. The Queer Meet Cute held at Black Honey gave female identifying community members the opportunity to get out there and participate in a speed dating-style social. Meanwhile further along Hunter Street at the vintage lounge Catalina’s, crowds gathered to witness Ms. Madge Enthat and Miss Divalicious tear up the stage for their show, It’s A Drag. The performances were equal parts comedic, sensual and fabulous as they danced and lip synced to raucous applause with Miss Divalicious reminding us all that, “Honey, it takes a lot of money to look this cheap!” After the performances, these sexy Drag Queens mingled with the crowd (who were encouraged to come in drag) taking selfies and acting as a physical embodiment of the joy and fun associated with Pride.
The Parade and Party in the Park which will take place later today are the culmination of Pride week in Peterborough. By working cooperatively with the DBIA, Peterborough Pride has managed to keep the events central, including this final and most important event which will proudly parade down George Street and finish with a family-friendly party in Millennium Park. When asked about the importance and relevance of Pride, and the parade in particular, organizer Rick Lambert explained, “The visibility of pride reminds the Peterborough community that we are normal folks who are everywhere in the community and who deserve the same rights and respect as everyone else.” LGBTQ+ are more than just letters in an acronym, they represent our friends, neighbors, peers, colleagues, teachers and family members. Pride is there to remind us all that when we open our hearts and minds and accept the differences in others, “love wins.”
Follow Peterborough Pride on Facebook @peterboroughpride or Twitter @PtboPride for news and events year round.