This week as some people in Pictou County celebrate and take part in Pride Week events there’s been a lot of reflection on how much has changed in recent years.
Gay rights activist Gerard Veldhoven spoke during the flag raising that kicked off this week’s events on Monday about how much society’s acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has changed over the years.
He told of the first rainbow flag raising event he took part in in 2008 in Amherst. About 75 people were in attendance, but two stood out – a politician and a Roman Catholic priest.
“It was quite amazing he said, not at all a usual occurrence. As a matter of fact, political people usually shied away from such public appearances.”
Much has changed in the 10 years that followed and Veldhoven was delighted to see political representation from the municipal, provincial and federal level in attendance for the flag raising.
“Here we are in 2018, and lo and behold we have 11 politicians in attendance at a pride event,” he said. “I could not have projected this would have happened 10 years ago.”
MP Sean Fraser spoke of his own experience as an ally of rainbow community.
“here was a time not that long ago where this would have been a very controversial thing to attend,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that today as a public figure.”
He took part in his first event in support of the rainbow community when he was student union president at St. FX and spoke on the steps of the Antigonish Town Hall.
“It garnered significant media attention across the entire province of Nova Scotia,” he said. “The idea that it was noteworthy that a student was speaking in favour of equality when it came to sexual orientation only about 12 or 13 years ago still blows my mind. It was not that long ago where these kind of events were not only controversial but difficult for people to come out and speak at.
As much as there’s been a shift in the public acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community both Veldhoven and Fraser said there is still much to be done.
Suicide rates are still extremely high among youth who identify with the rainbow community and violence towards them increased by 25 per cent over the last year according to recent stats.
“Yes, under the laws of the land we have made positive gains, but equal treatment is not yet a reality in this world,” Veldhoven said.