This question is frequently asked. The answer depends on who is asking. Those who feel that all problems have been solved and that Canadians are totally accepting of LGBTQ+ citizens in this country, are members of the heterosexual community. They are of the opinion that ever since same-sex marriage became legal that the problems have solved. Of course, members of the LGBTQ+ community will give a much different answer and will tell you that, yes we must continue to have Pride celebrations. As a matter of fact, such events are on the increase, world-wide. Recently, Amherst, Nova Scotia, was the scene of a Pride flag raising ceremony and other events, as well as its second Pride parade. The border town with New Brunswick, with a population of about 9600, became a beehive of activity and inclusion. I observed first-hand the mood of those participating and the crowds watching from the sidelines. As Parade Marshal, I had the best view of all. Mayor David Kogon drove his brand new, red Chevrolet Corvette, with me watching the people waving and generally having a great time. Parade participants were equally excited. I am using this event as a prime example of the need to continue these celebrations. Even as hundreds of people participated, thousands did not. The reason? Some may very well feel that if they appear they may be viewed as being a member of the LGBTQ community. Others, for religious beliefs, will not support, and indeed vilify the LGBTQ+ society. I assure readers that this remains a serious concern as evangelical, and some other religious organizations, speak out to criticize, and indeed display true hatred. The Evangelical movement is experiencing an increase in membership across North America. As I mentioned in a previous column, the Seventh-day Adventist church has been involved in “gay conversion therapy”, which results in horrific harm mentally and physically to those in the “program”. It does not work, resulting in depression, self-harm and suicide. This is not the only church, or organization to hold these false attempts at harming people, and this is not against the law. The Vatican’s opposition to equality has been well-documented. There are many reasons, among them is a couldn’t care less attitude. The list is quite extensive, and if we think of Canada being one of the most accepting at 80%, a percentage that I would challenge, we are still lacking in accepting our population who are LGBTQ+. Our world must continue to hold Pride events, to raise awareness, get everyone on the side of equal rights and equal treatment. As long as our Canadian LGBTQ+ youth are the second highest group to commit suicide, and a continuing unabashed society continues to dictate how our lives should be lived, then yes, Pride celebrations must continue. Attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are on the on the increase and that is of great concern. We must take off our proverbial rose-coloured glasses and come to terms with reality. Our Pride events are essential and we must continue to raise awareness, encourage allies to come out in great numbers, reflect on who we are and perhaps, in time, we will realize a definite shift in support. We are who we are, and we are members of the same society as all human kind. In order to manifest this reality we are obliged to tell the world, we are part of you, whether you agree, or dislike the very idea. American actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein said, “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself”.
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in The News. Comments and information: email@example.com