SUMMERSIDE – It lacked the flare of some of the massive parties that accompany Pride Week events in big cities, but Summerside’s lone gesture of solidarity is no less important, say its organizers.
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart and a group of local people raised a rainbow flag outside city hall Monday afternoon. It was the lone Gay Pride Week event scheduled for the city during this year’s P.E.I. Pride Week’s busy schedule of events.
This year’s Pride theme is all about young people and the challenges they face as they work to discover their sexual identity.
A flag raising may not seem like a big step towards that goal, but it is an important symbol, said Janet Bradshaw, youth co-ordinator for the Abegweit Rainbow Collective and an education assistant at Three Oaks Senior High School.
“The focus is all about awareness and to demystify and take away the stigma for youth, adults, whoever,” said Bradshaw.
Sandra Sheridan, one of TOSH’s councillors and Bradshaw’s partner on a recent LGBTQ youth conference called shOUT, added that it’s important for young people to see these types of events happening and to participate if they feel comfortable.
“I think it’s very important that the city does this and that (the Pride flag) flies by the other flags so that they’re really showing … that they stand in support of everybody in their community,” said Sheridan.
“I hate to use the term normal – but it really does normalize it,” she added.
“It really is to make people feel included, that there are others and that you are accepted by others,” added Bradshaw.
“Not just tolerated,” concluded Sheridan.
A crowd of about a dozen people, including youth, watched and clapped as the colourful flag made its assent.
Those in attendance remarked that this was one of the largest groups they’d seen at the Summerside flag raising in a while.
Noah Richardson, a recent TOSH graduate who plans on going to Carleton University in the fall, said he decided to get out and support the event because of his own experiences in high school.
TOSH recently founded a gay straight alliance and Richardson saw first hand how much of a difference it made in the lives of many of his fellow students.
“I really think this is a fantastic way to show our support and to show the rest of the world that on P.E.I. we are a province of inclusivity,” he said.
Daryl Dickson also came out to the event to show his support for the local gay community.
It’s important that the Island LGBTQ community hold events outside of the major urban centre of Charlottetown, so he was glad to see Monday’s Summerside event, said Dickson
“I know a lot of people from here go to Charlottetown, which is fine if you want to support each area, but I still think Summerside should have its own events, their own parade, their own whatever,” he said.