Pride Week needed now more than ever, gay rights activist says

Wayne Thibodeau
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Nola Etkin said there are still heart-breaking stories out there across Prince Edward Island

The needs of the gay community may have changed, but Nola Etkin believes Pride Week activities are just as important today as they were when the celebrations first began in P.E.I. 16 years ago.

Etkin, one of the organizers of the first Gay Pride Week on the Island, points to transgendered Islanders.

Transgendered issues, she said, is where sexual orientation issues were 16 years ago. There is a lot of work and education still needed, she added.

“There’s still heart-breaking stories out there,” said Etkin, who lives in Charlottetown with her partner and their two children.

PRIDE WEEK SCHEDULE

“We think that we’ve gotten there because we have equal rights and we have adoption rights and because we have most of the legal rights that we’ve been fighting for. But it’s still hard for kids in high school, coming out.”

The gay community will be coming out to celebrate the colours of the rainbow during Pride Week this week. Festivities began on Sunday with a church service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Charlottetown. Celebrations continue all week with the highlight being the pride parade and pride in the park celebrations on Saturday.

Tyler Murnaghan, co-chairman of the Abegweit Rainbow Collective of P.E.I., the group organizing pride week activities, said there are now supports in place for the gay community all year long — not just during pride week. He points to groups such as the Gay Straight Alliances, or GSA.

Groups are now in place in a number of high schools, including the two high schools in Charlottetown and one in Summerside.

Still, he sees the importance of Pride Week.

“The first summer I actually came out was our first pride festival,” said Murnaghan, who is 20 years old. “It definitely felt good to know that you weren’t alone. I went to a junior high probably the only not-straight kid in the entire building.”

In 1997, when Etkin moved to Prince Edward Island, it was a much different world for the Island’s gay community.

There were no pride celebrations. There were no equal rights based on sexual orientation. There were little supports in place for P.E.I.’s gay and lesbian community.

Etkin said a group got together to hold a gay dance.

“There was a real need then,” she said. “There was nothing else.”

Two years later, in 1999, P.E.I. played host to its first pride week.

But there was no parade. That came a year later, in 2000, when the Island first Gay Pride parade wound its way through the streets of the capital city. It was described by many as the coming out of the Island’s gay community.

Etkin said the overall response from those who lined the streets, both gay and straight, was positive.

“There were always a few, four or five people, who would show up with signs and follow us around. Never any real verbal confrontation or physical confrontation.”

It was not unexpected, said Etkin.

“People would see it and they would swarm around it with their positive reaction. It really made it clear that it was a very few people with that attitude.”

That positive reaction continues to grow, especially among young Islanders, said Murnaghan.

“People talk about pride, people are excited about pride whether you are straight or whether you are gay.”

wthibodeau@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianWayne

Organizations: Pour House, Anglican Church

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Victoria Park St. Paul Summerside

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Recent comments

  • Rob
    July 30, 2014 - 10:44

    Honestly, I think this is all over-the-top BS. I'm a male that happens to be attracted to guys. I don't consider myself "gay" because the word "gay" describes all this parades and pride and blah blah blah. I don't feel the need to be marching the streets wearing rainbow flags and dancing to Madonna. If you want to be that person, I have no issues with it. Don't expect everyone to be accepting of it though, part of the problem with the culture is the in-your-face approach of a lot of the community. I prefer to do my own thing, I'm an average guy with an average life and I don't feel the need to shove my sexuality in anyone's face, it's really no ones business but mine. If anything, these parades and rainbows and whatever, make life a whole lot more difficult for people like myself, who are trying to live a normal life and not be painted by the rainbow colored brush. That's just my two cents worth. I do agree that being gay/lesbian/bi or whatever you want to call it should be no big deal....so why make it a big one? I know you straight folk are like, no straight parade, why the need for a gay one??? I know, I know, at the same time being born straight and living a straight life has never been socially taboo, has it? My biggest problem is, this whole "pride" thing makes it seem as though all people who are considered "gay" somehow relate to this stuff??? I know I sure as hell don't, if anything I think it's small minded of the gay community to think that everyone that is gay wants to be represented like this. Do you think every straight person dresses, thinks, acts, walks and talks the same?? Of course not. If you want to spread your flamboyant, dramatic message, be my guest. Just understand that not everyone relates or completely agrees with the way you want to live your life and what represents you, everyone is unique in their own way and I don't need a parade to tell people about my life.

    • Captain Canuck
      July 30, 2014 - 14:03

      Thank you Rob! Being a "straight" person (for lack of having stated otherwise) made my similar sentiment ineligible for posting (or perhaps it was my provocative way of putting it...) I have a problem with many in the gay-pride parades who are nothing other than demonstrative fetishists. A person doing the same in a "straight-pride" parade could be considered any one of a number of society's scourges and possibly brought up on charges of indecency etc.

  • Joe Blow
    July 29, 2014 - 20:17

    I really don't understand why there needs to be a gay pride parade!!! We don't have straight pride parades....and we're fine. Most of the reason people dislike gay people is because they insist in flaunting it in everybodys face. Just be gay....go about living a normal life and stop throwing it in peoples faces and you'll get along better than ever. Just because you are gay doesn't mean that everybody needs to know about it. Its foolish that people need a parade to justify being gay. Just live your life the way you want.....if you are a normal person, people will accept you no matter what your sexual preference is.

    • Amanda
      July 30, 2014 - 08:08

      THANK YOU!!! I totally agree!!!! Couldn't agree more. No need to do all this pride stuff. It's political and unnecessary.

    • Vera
      August 01, 2014 - 08:24

      Living a "normal" life has been -- until fairly recently -- an impossibility for most in the LGBTQ community. Like the marches of the civil rights and feminist movements before, Pride marches raise awareness and celebrate community within an often-marginalized population. I don't walk around day to day waving my pride flag about in the air. I do my grocery shopping, take my kids to school, go to work... Just like member of the straight population. But it is the publicity-grabbing of loud, lavish, flambouyant pride celebrations over the past toe decades that have allowed me to now live such a relatively "normal" life. Hope we'll see you all the parade on Saturday--would love to talk more and hear your perspectives. :)

  • Transgender Islander
    July 29, 2014 - 16:31

    First of all it really bothers me that transgender is included in the LGB community, I know it is fighting for rights but it makes people think being transgender means you are gay and it drives me up the wall transgender is not a sexual orientation. Also why do we have to have a parade if we want this to become known as "normal lifestyle" let's stop making it such a show. Instead of shoving our pride in peoples face why not have a week of remembrance. I'm included in this minority and I even hate pride week and it makes everything think I'm flamboyant and out there when I'm just trying to be a normal kid not a drag king/queen. Why can't we just live our lives pride week makes me embarrassed of who I am not proud.

  • Don't Generalize
    July 29, 2014 - 12:47

    Let's not jump the gun CB. Granted, there may be some who are ignorant towards LBGTQ concerns, but no need to speak for them. Respect is all we can hope from anyone - let's give it out to the general public too. Thanks to all those involved with planning and executing another successful Pride event here on the island! I am not actively involved myself, but I very much appreciate and recognize the presence and efforts of ARCPEI, Pride PEI and other community supporters! Well done.

  • Cb
    July 29, 2014 - 07:27

    Now queue the ignorant; "why do they have to have a parade? Is there a straight parade?!" Comments from good old fashion ignorant islanders.

    • attitude
      July 29, 2014 - 13:48

      straightophobic much?

    • Amanda
      July 30, 2014 - 08:11

      Just because we don't think there needs to be a pride parade makes us old fashioned and ignorant???? Wow. Careful where you point that finger.