PORT HAWKESBURY: A day after the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the region hosted its first ever Pride March.
On Monday evening, approximately 150 people attended the inaugural Strait Area Pride March which featured land acknowledgement and “2 Spirit” explanation by Bryson Sili’pay. There were also speeches from Rod and Steven Googoo of We’koqma’q First Nation, as well as from Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda-Chisholm Beaton and Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway.
“I actually grew up as a queer youth here in Port Hawkesbury so I know what it’s like to be isolated due to being queer,” organizer Taylor Linloff explained.
Linloff spoke about the Stonewall Riots in New York back in 1969 which led to the first ever Pride March in Manhattan in 1970 and evolved into the Gay Rights movement of the 1970s.
“Every single person here shows that there is no place for homophobia, for transphobia in eastern Nova Scotia and the Strait area,” Linloff said. “Everybody here shows we are loved and are supported.”
The Strait Area Pride March was a socially-distanced sidewalk march for the protection of both pedestrians and drivers. The event started with opening remarks at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, followed by music, then there was a walk along Reeves Street, turning left onto MacQuarrie Drive, and going past the Regional Occupation Centre. Attendees then headed back to the Civic Centre for final thoughts and sharing.
Participants were asked “to dress fabulously,” (including face masks) to have fun, learn the history of Pride, and let their rainbow flags fly.
Linloff thanked everyone who helped make the event a success.
“The community has been super helpful in spreading the word and in coming out and it’s always appreciated,” Linloff said of the impressive turn-out. “I’m amazed at how far it’s come and how it’s evolved.
“I’ve had families come up to me and say their experiences and it’s extremely humbling and I feel very loved and I hope that the Strait area LGBTQ community and Two Spirit community feel all of the love as well.”
According to the Town of Port Hawkesbury, Linloff was partially inspired to organize the event because of a negative e-mail received by the town about raising the Pride flag.
“Our town council made a unanimous decision to raise the Pride Flag in support of our LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community for the month of June and we were happy to do so,” the mayor noted.
Noting that staff were “quite upset” about the complaint, Chisholm-Beaton said she was “surprised.”
“… I was surprised because it is 2020 and we have taken so many important steps as a town to show support to our LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit community by raising the Pride Flag and installing rainbow crosswalks…” she said.
Despite the shock, Chisholm-Beaton said it was important to post about the incident on social media while wearing her own Pride Pin.
“It was important to invite others to respond to this complaint,” the mayor recalled. “After all, we must keep pressing for progress so we can have the kind of community that is inclusive of everyone, so we can all feel welcome and belong.”
Out of the negativity of the complaint arose a very positive event, Chisholm-Beaton added.
“It is important that we have a safe and inclusive community where each and every citizen can feel welcome and feel like they belong,” she said. “This event is a promise and an invitation to ensure our LGBTQ+ Two Spirit community is supported by our town.”