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Pride 2022 Quesnel BC
Saturday June 11, 2022

We Are Not Invisible is the theme for Quesnel Pride 2022.

Pride parades are not only a celebration of how far we’ve come and symbolic of our communities’ resilience in times of hardship. They are also a protest in support of other LGBTQ2S+ people around the world who are bullied, oppressed, jailed, threatened, beaten or even murdered for being who they are. They are a protest against “don’t ask don’t tell” policies that keep us invisible. Pride parades are a protest against all regimes who refuse to acknowledge LGBTQ2S+ people as human beings. Saying “We Are Not Invisible” here, is to support those here and elsewhere who feel they must remain invisible to stay alive.

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We will announce when ticket sales are available!

History of Pride

Stonewall

Many people point to the Stonewall Riots in 1969 as the beginning of the Pride protests. It is for sure the most recognizable name associated with Pride activism. The riots came after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City on June 28, 1969. This was the third raid in a very short time and people had had enough. Instead of running away or retreating as they had in the past, LGBTQ+ members started to jeer and jostle the police, and then started throwing bottles and debris. It was a galvanizing time for the LGBTQ+ community as they felt the benefit of uniting behind a common cause – resistance to social and political discrimination and lack of civil rights for gays and lesbians.

The Lavender Scare

Lesser known is the period known as the Lavender Scare – 15 years before Stonewall. In 1953 President Eisenhower declared gay men and lesbians to be a threat to national security and unfit for government service.  For the next 40 years tens of thousands of government workers lost their jobs for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Frank Kameny was a Harvard-trained astronomer who became the first person to fight his dismissal.  That was in 1957 after thousands of others had already lost their jobs and led to his lifelong fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

The Canadian Military

This happened in Canada too!  The Canadian military has had a policy of punishing or purging LGBTQ+ members among its ranks for much of its history. This effort was stepped up during the Cold War when LGBTQ+ servicemen and women were identified as national security risks (due to potential blackmail).  They were labeled as deviate, psychopathic, and worse.  Although a reversal of this discrimination was achieved in 1992, and apology from the federal government did not come until 2017. 2017!

Bill C-150

In the 1960’s and 70’s in Canada, LGBTQ+ persons were losing their jobs, being kicked out of their churches, having children taken away from them, and assaulted in the streets.  Bill C-150 (passed in 1969) was supposed to address that, by decriminalizing consensual homosexual acts between adults 21 years and older. August 28, 1971 was the anniversary of Bill C-150 and was Canada’s first major gay-rights protest march. It was the first time the LGBTQ+ community essentially said, “We are demanding our rights as equal citizens on our own terms!” On the same day in Vancouver, 20 people protested on the city courthouse steps. 

Ten years later, the bath house raids took place in Toronto.

LGBTQ+ Murders

It has been a long hard road for equal rights for the LGBTQ2S+ community worldwide. There have been many notable murders by homophobes. One of the most horrific being the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998. One of the most prolific being the Orlando shootings where 49 people were gunned down and killed at a gay night club in 2016. I was in Orlando not long after and was moved to tears at the memorials and the atmosphere near the site of the shooting. 

Other notorious murders and attacks of LGBTQ+ communities worldwide include:

  • San Francisco 1978 - Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician gunned down and killed.

  • Jerusalem 2015 – 6 people stabbed, 1 killed at a Gay Pride Parade.

  • Moscow 2014 – a large gay nightclub was forced to close after being sprayed with bullets and gassed.

  • Armenia 2012 – the DIY Club was fire-bombed, and spray painted with swastikas.

  • Roanoke Virginia 2000 – a gunman who told police he was on a mission to kill gay people killed one man and wounded 6 others. 

  • Atlanta 1997 – a lesbian bar was hit by a nail bomb, 5 people wounded. The attacker wanted to send a message to protest Washington’s “continued tolerance and support for the homosexual political agenda”. 

  • New Orleans 1973 – 32 people dead after a fire was intentionally set at a gay nightclub. Not only was this crime never solved, but jokes were also made about the tragedy on the radio, and many churches refused to hold a memorial.

 

The Future

While it sometimes feels like two steps forward, one step back, personally I feel hopeful for the future.  I see it in the response of the local Quesnel community to the Safe Space stickers we offered to businesses and schools at the start of 2022. Safe Space stickers let LGBTQ2S+ members know that if they find themselves in trouble – maybe being harassed or bullied – that a business with a Safe Space sticker will offer them refuge until police/ambulance arrive.  When these first came out in Quesnel the response was overwhelming – in a good way! I was moved to tears a few times at the number of businesses and schools requesting these stickers.  The post was shared so many times it reached thousands of people.  It is sad that we still need these stickers. But hopeful that so many people responded in such a positive way.

I would like to see a greater voice from our 2 Spirit community members in the future. I’m told that our indigenous communities may still struggle with children who are gay.  This could be generational – the residential schools and Indian day schools have left scars far deeper than most of us can imagine.  And that shame can sometimes be turned on the children who are different.  It is something that needs to be addressed, but to address it we need to hear their voices.

The same is true for LGBTQ2S+ teens, even here in Quesnel, who feel they have to hide who they are because their parents/families disapprove. They want programs and counselling but do not want their parents to know because of fear of their reaction. This is sad. I hope they respond to the survey so that we can better identify what they need.

And I would like to see bullying in the schools better addressed. Not just for LGBTQ2S+ kids, but for all kids who are targets. We need to teach children bullying of any kind is not ok – in school or out.

The future is hopeful! Of that, I am sure.  So, this year, we will celebrate loudly, and visibly. To say, We Are Here, and We Are Not Invisible. And that we stand beside our LGBTQ2S+ family worldwide to say one day, you will be visible too. We see you, and soon the rest of the world will.

Go Quesnel Pride 2022! We hope it is in person (depending on COVID restrictions). But one way or another we will not be invisible.

Alison Prentice               
President Quesnel Pride Society

 

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