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Pride events mix celebration with education

Just a week to showcase your Pride? That's so 1990s. This year's Pride planning committee chairwoman, Susanne Gulliver Conway, told The Telegram a week is not enough to fit in all of the events Pride now offers St. John's.

The events are a mix of fun activities and educational offerings that have had more people out participating in Pride over the last several years, Gulliver Conway said, and not just individuals who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gendered.

Marchers carry coloured banners during the Pride Parade in 2007. What started as an annual gay rights rally and parade has grown into a 10-day celebration. Telegram file photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Just a week to showcase your Pride? That's so 1990s. This year's Pride planning committee chairwoman, Susanne Gulliver Conway, told The Telegram a week is not enough to fit in all of the events Pride now offers St. John's.

The events are a mix of fun activities and educational offerings that have had more people out participating in Pride over the last several years, Gulliver Conway said, and not just individuals who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gendered.

"You have people who are supporting their friends and families who are coming and marching now. There's a larger community involvement," she said.

"Pride is about celebration, celebrating yourself, the community, everyone. Not only is it about LGBTQ individuals, it's also about their place in the greater community and the greater community (itself)," she said. "We try to have events that all age groups will enjoy, events people of different backgrounds and different preferences will enjoy."

To that, Pride 2010 organizers have scheduled a photo scavenger hunt in the downtown, a picnic, a haunted hike, bowling, a bonfire, a boat tour and more.

"But you also have to educate, as any group would," Gulliver Conway said, the "we" referring to the LGBTQ individuals Pride organizers represent. "It's a very misunderstood group. It's also a very broad group. We have a huge alphabet soup of lesbians, gay, bisexual, trans-gendered and questioning (LGBTQ). That's a lot of people to fit in under one umbrella."

To serve their educational and advocacy goals, organizers have scheduled a seminar to provide information on LGBTQ identities; a launch of an informational pamphlet on same sex assault from the Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre and a "guerilla queerfare."

Hitting the street

"Guerrilla queerfare started off as this idea where a bunch of people basically wanted to go to a typically straight, hetero place and just queer it up," said another volunteer with Pride 2010, Robert Hillier. Hillier has been assisting with the organizational work for this year's Pride events since November 2009.

For the guerilla queerfare event, all those interested register beforehand (this year available through a Facebook event page) and, on the day of the event, organizers send out a location where everyone will converge and a theme colour they are asked to wear to visually showcase the LGBTQ presence at the location.

"Some people kind of viewed (guerilla queerfare) as a combative kind of thing, but last year we had it at Turkey Joe's and it was a lot of fun. Lots of people came out to the bar ... It was just a really great night. The entire night you never felt unsafe at all. It creates a safe space for queers," Hillier said.

Gulliver Conway said the blood drive is the major event for Pride 2010.

The blood drive is simultaneously a protest against a ban on gay male blood donors and a recruitment of donors - as those who cannot donate call on friends and family members to do so in their name - "because we feel it's highly discriminatory. There are a bunch of reasons why men who have sex with men have a higher infection rate. Between the fact that its a closed community, which we saw happen in Conception Bay North amongst the straight community, it's a closed community and that can happen with any disease. But also, (gay men) definitely over-report. Gay men are told over and over again 'You need to test, you need to test, you need to test.' But straight people aren't told that as often and don't have that ground into them the same.

"So our big thing is the blood and the organ donation because it's ridiculous and it's discriminatory. Especially with organ donation. We don't get enough organs and for a friend of mine, if it were to happen, he wouldn't be able to give his father a kidney because he has sex with men. Which is utterly ridiculous. He should be able to donate organs."

Hillier brought a friend to donate at last year's blood drive. Hillier said he himself had been turned away, kept from donating, at a blood drive at his high school when he was in his senior year.

"We got to the question and I said 'yes, I have had sex since 1977 with a man.' They were like 'OK, well, you can't give blood.' I was pretty irritated," he said.

"I've been in a monogamous relationship for a year and I've been tested, because that's what I do as a sexually responsible person. And the fact that I'm unable to give blood even though I'm definitely safer than a lot of people that wouldn't be ruled out, that may be having promiscuous sex, even sex with other people, even with protection, because protection is never 100 per cent ... that I'm determined to be riskier based upon that demographic?

"It's not so much that we want to make it so that the policy is more unsafe. We don't want that to happen because that would be a risk to people receiving blood, but it's just to say maybe you're letting it be too easy on the men, on everyone else ... maybe there needs to be some sort of policy that makes everything equal no matter who you're having sex with."

He guessed that last year's Pride blood drive had "four or five" people who came to donate on behalf of friends and family members who could not. While the numbers were single-digits, the awareness spread through media reports was valuable, Hillier said.

"It's really cool. Some people protest that (the event) will stop them from donating and everything, but something that raises awareness and still raises blood - we win," he said.

Reaching out

"My major goal has always been to build bridges and to show the rest of the community you know we're the same as you. Our issues are your issues. LGBTQ individuals have the same worries and concerns about their jobs and their families and healthcare and everything else," Gulliver Conway said.

"We've won a lot of the major, major battles ... same sex marriage, things like that. But there's still a lot of things to consider," she said.

She said trans rights would be another example, even an understanding within the medical community of the needs of transgendered persons.

"In this province we still don't have a protocol with how to deal with transitioning within the healthcare system, which is something that we need to work towards. So ultimately a lot of the major battles have been won, but there's still things that need to change and we find that just by collaborating with the community that we can get change."

Currently, Pride events are paid for through fundraising and in-kind donations. Hillier said organizers are in the process of establishing charitable status. For this year, the donations have still allowed for quite the event list.

"It's going to be 10 days. It's going to be a lot of fun," Hillier said.

"We just hope that the greater community comes out and comes and enjoy the events with us," Gulliver Conway said. "Everything is open to everyone."

A complete listing of events is available in the sidebar provided on this page. Explanations for each event can be found on Facebook under "Pride 2010" St. John's.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

It's going to be 10 days. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Event volunteer Robert Hillier

Weblinks

Pride in Canada and the United States:

www.halifaxpride.com


www.frederictonpride.org


www.pridetoronto.com

www.hopinc.org


www.sfpride.org

Organizations: Pride planning committee, The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's, Canada, United States

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Blair
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    We would give you your own month stinky , unfortunately, you don't meet your own normal criteria.

  • Jennifer
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    This is a really good article that gives a nice overview of the PRIDE event and most of the issues.

    Don't forget that one of the most controversial issues in the news lately was the Department of Justice's refusal to add gender identity into the newly-amended Human Rights Act. This topic will definitely be highlighted at the seminar as well as the flag raising.

    And by the way, as nice as this article is, it really doesn't belong in the 'lifestyle' section of the paper. Nobody choses to be LGBTQ as a lifestyle. We are born the way we are born. We are human beings just like anyone else. We aren't just about sexual orientation and gender identity. We all eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom just like everyone else. We are all part of the community. We all go or went to school; we all try to find good jobs. We all strive for strong physical and mental health. Some of us love music, some of us love sports. Some of us run businesses, some of us work for the government.

    As unique as I may be in the eyes of many, I consider myself a regular St. John's native that enjoys the very same things about this city that so many others do. I feed the ducks at Kent's Pond on a regular basis; I will be running the Tely 10; I swim at the Aquarena; I will be at the Teddy Bear's Picnic as a volunteer; I attend concerts at Mile One Centre; I shop at the Avalon Mall.

    The only 'lifestyle choice' happening here is that the bulk of society continues to express hatred, discrimination and phobia towards LGBTQ people, including our Government by way of their refusal to update policies, procedures and legislations to conform with global best-practices. what separates me as a transperson is that I can't seem to get what I need out of our Health Care system and our Human Rights system, and I face discrimination and exclusion from society without just-cause.

    Anyway, PRIDE is for everyone, as this article says. For everyone out there who may feel afraid of the unknown. Please come out to these PRIDE events and mingle with members of the LGBTQ community. You will find out that most of us are kind human beings who love life and love our city.

    Jennifer

  • amazed
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I support the gay community, I would hope they could interact anywhere amongst anyone with no problems, I fully support same sex marriage and it being called a marriage. Behind you guys and girls 100%.
    However, I have a question about one aspect of a Pride event and I guess only a homosexual individual could answer this.
    I have seen pictures an articles about Pride parades, and I cannot fathom why anyone of any sexual orientation would walk down a street naked with various sexual toys, etc attached to them or walking naked with bondage gear on. What message is trying to be sent? People are aware homosexual people have sex with the same sex, but the explicit exhibition in these Pride parades only says you like to do things with sex toys, and this can apply to hetero and homosexuals. Whatever happens behind closed doors between two consenting adults is fine, but I see no rationale for displaying it in public, especially in a way that normally would get a person of any stripe arrested.
    Gay pride is great. Proud of the d!ldo, I don't get. Please enlighten me.
    I hope I asked my question as respectfully as possible, because I am a supporter of the gay community, I just don't understand some things.

  • amazed
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Thanks for the reply Jennifer. I'm not anymore enlightened but appreciate the reply. :)
    I was referring to pics I see at the Toronto Pride parade. I saw some things that looked bizarre and outright painful, boggles my mind what they want to get across.
    I hope you enjoy the Pride activities. :)

  • stinky
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    ok blair then don't include me (or you)but don't deny those who aren't some specialty group from having their own parade. actually i'm tired of all these specialty groups wanting special recognition, i'd rather everyone give up these look-at-us parades, sit down, shut up, and get on with life without feeling the need to stand out and scream for attention because most of us really don't care, ask your friends if you have any, unless of course you are one of those fanatics, in which case there is no reasoning because you have an agenda

  • iwondertoo
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I agree with Amazed and would like to be enlightened about this rather absurd behaviour by any group of people! I also have another question: why would anyone refer to themselves or others by using the word que-rs ?

    p.s. this webpage won't even let me spell out the word - says it's a bad word.

  • stinky
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    we have an entire month of black history month as well as other specialty group celebrations. can we have a normal, naturaly born, straight white person month and add balance before this minority demographic is forgoten in canada?

  • Blackadder
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Surely small-minded, bigoted, ignorant, buzzkills consitute some sort of speical interest group, stinky.

    Happy Pride, all!

  • Pamela
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Really looking forward to sharing Pride 2010, with friends, family and supporters.. Bringing community together

  • Jennifer
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I speculate that the naked/bondage people make up a rather small portion of PRIDE parade attendees. They just tend to capture most of the attention.

    I too am puzzled as to what it is that they are trying to accomplish. You definitely won't see me dressing up like that! In fact, i don't recall seeing anyone dressed like that at recent St. John's pride parades.

    As far as the Q word, it is starting to make a 'comeback' as being a politically correct definition that covers the umbrella of folks who identify as being part of this demographic, yet may not necessarily identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.