PORT HAWKESBURY: Pride Month activities in the town will culminate in a big event on June 26.

Town of Port Hawkesbury Price Facilitator Taylor Linloff explained that June is Pride Month because of the Stonewall Riots which took place in New York in June, 1969, protesting police brutality, laws banning “cross-dressing,” and raids in what were then call “gay bars.” The next year, New York hosted the world’s first “Gay Pride March,” which has been celebrated every year since.

“So now, Pride isn’t just about the riots, it’s also about self-acceptance, love, just general positivity now, and being able to exist as yourself,” Linloff told The Reporter.

After a flag raising at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on June 1, attendees walked down to the ‘Fountain of Love” in Grant’s Pond and were invited to place hand-painted rocks around the site.

“People are still invited to continue to do that. We want to try to fill up the fountain,” they noted.

“We definitely would like to invite people to paint rocks with rainbow colours, or any colour they would like and take the rocks down to the fountain,” Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton chimed in.

Town staff, residents, business owners, and others met last week to iron out the details for the June 26 event which starts with a parade at 3 p.m. on Bernard Street at St. Mark’s United Church (one of the partners for Pride Month), goes to the Old Sydney Old, then down to Granville Street, before ending at Lower Water Street.

“The volunteer fire department, under Chief Donald MacDonald, they’re going to help with traffic control and the antique fire truck will start the parade,” the mayor noted. “Our parade marshall is a Two-Spirit Elder from We’koqma’q First Nation, Tricia Aucoin. And we’ll have a fire truck at the end, just to signal the beginning and the end of the parade.”

A Community BBQ, in support of the Cape Breton Youth Project will take place after the parade at 4 p.m. on Lower Water Street, and at 5 p.m. a Pride Show will be held at Granville Green.

“The Pride Show is going to be music and karaoke; we want to get the youth involved,” Linloff stated.

In case of inclement weather, the events on June 26 will be moved to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, where between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. the march will take place on the walking track, and the show and meal will be held in the arena.

As the town’s Pride Facilitator, Linloff said she is involved with the non-profit Youth Project, which is headquartered in Halifax, with a chapter in Sydney, to help support 2SLGBTQ+ Nova Scotians under the age of 25. During the month, they will be collecting donations for the group.

“They provide gender affirming items, they provide summer camps, they help set up Gender Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in schools, and they also educate parents when children come out, so they do a lot of good work,” Linloff explained. “A lot of our events, especially on the 26th will be in support of them this year.”

When Pride Month activities started in the town two years ago, Linloff and the mayor said they didn’t know how things would go. Once it started, Linloff said they felt respect, acceptance, care, and love.

“When we first did the Pride March, we were praying that we were going to get 12, and we were worried that we were going to get a bunch of backlash, because it was a protest, that was a protest,” Linloff recalled. “As soon as the parade hit start, we had like 300 people, like a wave of people.

“There were people holding signs ‘We Love Our LGBTQ Children,’ there were grandparents walking with their queer grandkids. It was beautiful. We had some folks in drag, it was so fun.”

After a smaller event last year as public health restrictions were tightened, this year’s event has grown with the support of many residents, organizations, and members of the local business community.

“We’re now getting businesses in town that say, ‘we want to support you guys.’ I’ve had one or two people message me saying, ‘I want to take my grandmother in this Pride Parade, how can I do this?’ It’s just absolutely amazing. It’s humbling, honestly,” said Linloff. “This year, I’m going to be transitioning, I’m using my pronouns more, before I was letting it slide. The fact that I can safely do so in a rural community in just amazing because you don’t think you can in a small town but I’ve been so accepted.”

Once the month is finished, Linloff said there are plans to offer sensitivity training to members of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce on how to be more accepting of 2SLGBTQ+ customers.

“It’s important for a business to show their inclusivity, but also it’s a bit of a safety feature for the community; that they know that they will go into a business that cares,” Chisholm-Beaton stated.

Despite the recent gains, Linloff said more work is needed so more people feel accepted.

“There’s always work that can be done, especially when it comes to the acceptance of the Two Spirit and Indigenous Nations,” they added. “We have to keep uplifting the people who are more marginalized within the community. A parade is definitely an amazing show of support, but we have to keep doing more. We have to keep thinking of ways that we can help support them, most importantly, we have to listen to those voices.”