Making history during Pride Month

For the first time in the Town of Port Hawkesbury’s history, the pride flag was raised in celebration of Pride Month. During a flag raising ceremony on June 7, at the Civic Centre, Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said they’re realizing more than ever how important it is to be an inclusive community.

It is great to hear how the Strait area is embracing Pride Month.

On June 14, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Bear Head Room hosted the region’s first ever “Queer Prom,” organized by the Cape Breton Youth Project.

Mitch Hill, community educator with the Youth Project, told The Reporter for some 2SLGBTQ youth, prom season is not a great experience.

“There’s a lot of fears of being bullied for showing up with your partner, in cases where someone might not be out yet – just showing up or pretending to be something that they aren’t, or not showing up at all.”

The event, which is open to anyone under the age of 19, will be the first of its kind outside of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality because the Youth Project wants more kids on the island to feel safe.

“Not everybody is going to feel accepted at the prom that’s intended for everyone, so the Queer Prom is meant to represent a safer space to really be their authentic self without worry,” Hill explained. “For a lot of our trans-youth, being able to dress the way they want and express their gender expression without feeling judgments is difficult.”

Growing up as queer-identified comes with its own set of challenges, Hill said, but growing up queer-identified in this part of Nova Scotia comes with a greater set of challenges and stigmas. However, he said he has been surprised at the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Queer Prom on social media.

Then on June 7, the Town of Port Hawkesbury raised the pride flag for the first time in the town’s history.

The striped rainbow flag, which has been hoisted at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, underlies the community’s efforts in becoming as inclusive and safe as possible for everyone – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – according to Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, who noted this is also an opportunity to celebrate the town’s diversity.

“Never doubt the power of one person, one group, one town, one province, one country to make change,” the mayor said. “We support the LGBTQ+ community and together we make our community stronger and more vibrant like the colours displayed on the flag.”

Also at the ceremony was Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey who said he was somewhat taken aback that this was the first time the pride flag was being raised.

In addition to flying the Pride Flag, Port Hawkesbury has committed to installing and maintaining three rainbow crosswalks year-round; one located near SAREC, the other on the campus of NSCC, and the final one, will be located in close proximity to the community park.

Port Hawkesbury joins neighbouring municipalities and towns across the province in celebrating diversity by embarking on historical milestones to raise pride flags.

And while it has taken many years, and far too much lobbying for this to happen, it is very positive that local communities are striving to be more inclusive.

The Queer Prom is perhaps the more significant step since it is an event aimed specifically at young people, during a time of sexual confusion, in a region that has not always embraced such diversity as it should. And while flying the Pride Flag is symbolic, it is powerfully so, and serves as a stark reminder that times have changed.

Aside from some lingering, isolated opposition, the negative mindset is thankfully becoming a relic of the past, as witnessed by the positive responses to the Queer Prom and the town’s full-throated support of flying the Pride Flag during Pride Month.

Not just change for the sake of change, or embracing an idea because others have, these are cases when change was long overdue.