After a few turbulent years under the thumb of a global pandemic, Borderland Pride is kicking off a Pride Month to be remembered, full of fun activities and educational opportunities to bring the entire community together.
Doug Judson, Borderland Pride director and festival co-chair, said that this month’s Pride celebrations are a way to help bring the community back together following the disruptions caused by COVID-19. These events, he said, are particularly important for reminding those who identify as LGBTQ2+ that there is a place for them when they might otherwise feel unsupported by their families or their community at large.
“I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people were very isolated during the height of the pandemic, and that there are people who really depend on having Pride activities in the community for their wellness, to feel that they belong, that they’re included,” Judson said.
“And there’s new people that come into that fold all the time, because people learn about themselves or their children or other people they care about and want to be part of a community of allies or to make connections with other LGBTQ2 people. So I think it’s fair to say that when we couldn’t come together in person, it became a lot harder to build those bridges in the community. We’re excited to be able to open things up again, and to resume the work we started in 2018 in making this a landmark on the summer calendar.”
To that end, Borderland Pride’s slate of activities for June 2022 is chock-full of all kinds of different events that will offer opportunities for plenty of fun, advocation, and education. While the official month doesn’t kick off until today, June 1, the first event was held yesterday in Rainy River. Judson said that the theme for this year’s Pride Month is “Loud and Proud” and that particular theme was chosen to help people be more visible and vocal advocates in their community.
“Through pride this year, we’re trying to give people three things; we’re trying to give them reasons to celebrate, reasons to advocate, and places to educate one another on the issue,” he said.
“The main events really start on Monday, June 6, and on that day, we are going to have our flag raising this year. The official flag raising will be at Seven Generations, and the purpose of that is to underscore the role that the education community generally has in building our sense of inclusion and community, but also a nod to the tremendous support the Indigenous community has provided Pride from the beginning, so we’re trying to start things off in the right way. Then you’ll see we have everything from arts and crafts events where people can put their creativity to work, we have activities people can do at home by themselves, we have some opportunities for people to learn how they can be better support and allies.”
The calendar of events includes a Pride Mart which will run at Curvy Chick until June 30, a Colouring and Creative Writing contest for Kindergarten to Grade 8 students, an evening with pro hockey player Brock McGillis, a Pride breakfast, film screenings, resource panels, teas, and of course, the Pride March itself. The march was originally scheduled to begin at the Sorting Gap Marina and proceed to the Rainy Lake Square, where a special event featuring Choir!Choir!Choir! will follow, but as concerns around water levels rise, Judson noted they have a contingency plan in place in case the Sorting Gap and River Walk remain under water.
“If the walkway remains closed, and the water level remains too high, we will shift gears and we will start the March at the library instead,” he said.
“It’ll still be about the same length. And the library is of course the hub for Pride activities anyway, and for parades, so people are used to that. I think the other thing is, generally, we have a few outdoor events and with it remaining still a little cold and rainy, we’re hoping that that might perk up by the time we get to later in the week of June 6. I think those are always risks we take in any year, whether the weather will cooperate with us, and we’ve actually been lucky every year so far.”
In the event of poor weather on the day of the March, the Choir!Choir!Choir! event will relocate to the Fort Frances Knox United Church.
Judson noted that Pride activities are powered through public participation, and that the organization is moved by the amount of support that they continue to receive from different organizations and businesses located in the area.
“The most touching thing is that I don’t need to chase them,” Judson said.
“These organizations contact us and say, ‘Oh, we wanted to know how we can be involved. We have people that would like to volunteer, we ordered some merchandise, we’re hoping we could bring it to an event,’ and they’re doing the legwork on their own. That’s really important because it tells us that our community is in a really good place on these issues, that our community has people that are looking for ways to do this stuff voluntarily. We’re not force-feeding that message to anyone. People want to be part of it on their own terms and on their own way.”
The warm reception and support received locally by the public, organizations, and businesses stands in stark contrast to recent developments and bills in the United States that have aimed to strip rights from LGBTQ2+ and transgender individuals, particularly around their inclusion in school sports. According to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan organization and website that tracks discriminatory laws and bills being passed or considered in the United States, Minnesota currently has six different bills tabled that, if passed, will significantly reduce the ability of transgender youth to participate in school sports that match their gender identity. These ongoing nearby efforts speak to how critical Pride events like these are.
“I think it continues to underscore the relevance of what we’re doing,” Judson said.
“You’re obviously in a very different place in Canada and in Ontario than the United States is on a lot of these issues. The attacks on trans people in particular, in some of the U.S. states are absolutely disgusting. And the fact that that has been tolerated by American institutions, it’s a reality that’s simply unfathomable in Canada, even by some of our more conservative political organizations. So I think that we’re uniquely positioned as a cross-border organization, to show that our communities don’t stand for those legislative initiatives, that our communities are more open and inclusive. Pride started out as a protest, and so the more we can do to demonstrate how big our movement is, I think it helps to turn the dial a little bit on those issues.”
The visibility of Pride movements also helps to show those who may feel victimized by those types of bills, or who are struggling or questioning with their own sexuality and identity, that there are places and people who support them. That, in turn, could help them to feel less isolated, or more likely to advocate for themselves, Judson said.
The events that are being put on as part of Borderland Pride’s 2022 Pride Month remain open to everyone, Judson said, no matter if they consider themselves part of the LGBTQ2+ community or not, or just don’t know. Anyone who is interested is welcome to take part in the events, and Judson said Pride events are particularly interesting because they have the capability to bring different people together in ways they might not otherwise realize.
“Pride is interesting, because it brings together people who have lived in parallel in this community for forever and suddenly realized there’s something they have in common,” Judson said.
“And it’s just simply their connection to LGBTQ people in their lives. It helps to build bridges in our community in a really powerful way. So the more of that we can do, the better position we are to move forward. And it’s really great for our image when people who don’t live here yet, or are maybe thinking about moving home, or who used to live here and didn’t have such a great experience, when they see on social media or they Google ‘Fort Frances’ because they’re applying for a job or something like that, that they see that we have these activities and all these people come out to them and all the organizations are involved.”
For a complete list of all activities planned for this year’s Pride Month, visit the Borderland Pride website at www.borderlandpride.org.