Pride Week wrap

Summer reporter
Marc Stuempfle

Wave after wave of support came crashing through Fort Frances during the Pride Week festival and just because it is over, does not mean the tank is empty.

Now that Pride Week has finished, the momentum continues to build and keeps rolling forward.

“Pride is powered by public participation, and our tank is full,” said Borderland Pride co-chair Peter Howie.

Pride signified a united effort by many people and organizations who got behind the wheel in support of Pride events.

A span of 17-days–which spread across three Borderland communities and featured over 20 official events–culminated with the Passport to Pride March here Saturday morning. Rainbow colours flooded across the border and through the streets of Fort Frances with an estimated 300 people participating in the event.

The work for the Pride committee and its community supporters is far from over, according to Borderland Pride co-chair and councillor Douglas Judson.

“Though Pride Week is a once a year event the mission is year-round, around the clock and that something we will try to find new ways to participate in,” he said.

“[I] drive through Scott Street and around Fort Frances and seeing the Pride in the storefronts and the community really just shows you know times are changing and inclusion is what we are all after,” said Trevor Bonot, 2019 Borderland Passport to Pride March Grand Marshal.

Bonot relished in his experience to march across the border with his family along his side.

“I’ve been lucky enough to attend Pride events all over Canada and a couple in the States and none have made me feel the way I felt today walking across that border,” said Bonot.

“That sense of pride not only being out and proud and being in the community with my family members that are here; it’s having everyone embrace people’s differences. It’s outstanding,” he added.

Bonot is one of the most renowned curlers in Northern Ontario. Curling allowed Bonot to have an outlet which he dedicates his personal growth and find strength in himself.

“I wasn’t ready to be out and proud like I am today, I truly believe that once I was able to come out, my curling got better and it helped my team to succeed and become world medalists,” explained Bonot.

Pride has not come without criticism or people being hesitant about get involved and turning a blind eye to everything happening around them. Lack of support or insensitive statements from even political leaders has clouded the progression and strive for equality Borderland Pride continues to work towards, noted Judson

“LGBTQ2 inclusion must not only be the default but all of us must be forthright in sharing those values as there is injustice around us. It’s a critically important message even in 2019–a time when LGBTQ2 people around the world and right here in Canada and the United States continue to experience inequality, discrimination, and even sometimes target malicious acts of violence,” reminded Judson.

“Ontario Premier Doug Ford refuses to attend Pride events and Andrew Scheer, one of the candidates to become prime minister, talks about us like we are a bad rash to be tolerated. He can keep scratching,” he added.

Judson stressed it is unacceptable, and as a society, each of us has a role in demanding more from our public office holders. He believes public leaders should represent the same values as its demographic and avoid discrimination by their own personal biases.

“I think that there are a lot of myths. I think that there is a lot of ignorance around LGBTQ2 inclusion and families and identities,” stated Judson.

“When we tell people are Pride Week is for everyone, it is legitimately for everyone that wants to make a sincere effort to better understand and put their best foot forward,” remarked Judson.

“Our definition of a safe space where it is safe to make mistakes, learn from them and move on, or where it’s safe to learn more about topics you don’t know much about because otherwise. We’re not really a movement we’re just kind of in our own bubble–we need that growth,” he added.

Pride organizers continue to discover evidence LGBTQ2 young people view themselves in a circumstance where they feel isolated trying to find resources and support, which tells organizers they are justified in being the influence for further inclusion and acceptance.

Emcee Caitlin Hartlen spoke during the closing ceremony of the Borderland Pride March about trying to be a positive influence for LGBTQ2 youths.

“I just think about that fact when I was a kid growing up in small communities like this, I didn’t have any queer role models. There were none. And by the time I knew what queer was, it was something people were making fun of,” said Hartlen.

“So now to stand here in front of all of you at 33, thinking about my 16-year-old self so scared. I’ve really strived to be that person I didn’t have,” she added.

The whole community has come together to endorse Pride to push us ahead into a brighter future, said Mayor June Caul.

She shared a special message for all the LGBTQ2 youths in the community: “Stand up for yourself, be proud of who you are, and if having a struggle, come see me. Come see Doug. We will help you get through it and we will make sure you are protected.

“It’s so wonderful to see so many people taking part, seeing all the beautiful rainbows everywhere,” Mayor Caul added.

“Rainbows symbolize hope and everyone deserves to have respect and inclusion and I just hope that with what we do here today, it continues and we pay it forward throughout the communities everywhere.”