Who could possibly oppose inclusion and diversity?

It’s hard to believe that in the year 2020, and with all the challenges that it brought, there are still people who actually oppose flying a Pride Flag.

A day after the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Port Hawkesbury hosted its first ever Pride March.

On June 29, 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…” 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.

The Strait Area Pride March was a socially-distanced sidewalk march for the protection of both pedestrians and drivers, and many participants and supporters wore masks.

The event started with opening remarks at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, followed by music, and then there was a walk along Reeves Street, turning left onto MacQuarrie Drive, going past the Regional Occupation Centre.

Attendees headed back to the Civic Centre for final thoughts and sharing. Participants were asked “to dress fabulously,” to have fun, learn the history of Pride, and let their rainbow flags fly.

Linloff thanked everyone who helped make the event a success and noted the community was “super helpful” in spreading the word and showing up.

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 flying the Pride flag.

Chisholm-Beaton explained that town council made a unanimous decision to raise the Pride Flag for the month of June in support of the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community.

Noting that staff were “quite upset” about the complaint, Chisholm-Beaton said she was “surprised” after some many important steps have been taken recently, including Pride events at the NSCC Strait Area Campus and the installation of rainbow crosswalks.

Despite the shock, Chisholm-Beaton said it was important to post about the incident on social media while wearing her own Pride Pin to “invite others to respond to this complaint.”

The mayor said it is vital to “keep pressing for progress” to create an inclusive community where everyone feels welcome.

As a result of the complaint, Chisholm-Beaton noted that such events are “a promise and an invitation” to ensure the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community is supported.

While it is stirring that the mayor and town staff took the steps they did, reacted with positivity, and promise to continue working toward being more inclusive – the fact that someone, somewhere decided to take time from their life to complain about a rainbow-coloured Pride Flag is deflating.

It is discouraging because this is not the only person who feels this way, this is discouraging because after so much progress has been made, there are some who do not recognize those in the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community as their brother, their sister, their neighbour, or even their co-worker.

Even after the rights of this community have been enshrined into law, even after their human rights have been protected internationally, and even after most of the civilized world has opened its arms, there are still those who refuse to love them, to accept them, or even tolerate them.

That is why flying the Pride Flag, holding Pride events, forming groups, and living out and proud are so important.

Although it should be, this fight is not yet over.