The raising of the rainbow flag outside St. John’s City Hall at noon today will mark the launch of what could be the biggest event in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) community in the city’s history.
For the first time the event is being run by an incorporated body, St. John’s Pride Inc., and organizers say they believe this year’s events, July 18-24, will serve as a significant stepping stone to their goal of awareness, acceptance and equality of the community.
Established events such as the flag raising ceremony, Middle Cove Beach bonfire and the closing day Pride Parade and festival will be accompanied by new endeavours to appeal to a wider demographic.
“A huge part of our agenda as a committee this year for Pride has been to make it as accessible as possible to everybody,” says event organizer Vanessa Woodford.
The most notable additions to the schedule are a July 23 Pride Inc. comedy night and dance party fundraiser at Yuk Yuk’s featuring local and visiting standup comics, and a special event at the Arts & Culture Centre July 23 that will see a host of local theatrical, musical and comedic talent join celebrated comedian and television personality Elvira Kurt for what’s being touted as a variety show.
“We thought that it was a real opportunity to start something this year that we hope can be an annual partnership,” says Aiden Flynn, Arts & Culture Centre programming and promotion manager.
Pride organizers are also excited about Memorial University Student Union’s (MUNSU) ambition to bolster Pride Week events on campus, including their own flag raising ceremony, a July 20 ‘Sexuality Unconference,’ and a speakers’ series and panel discussion July 24.
“It’s exciting to see more and more people want to be a part of Pride or affiliated or be seen as supporting the LGBTQ community as a whole,” says St. John’s Pride organizer Jennifer McCreath. “It’s all about recognition and awareness, which hopefully breed acceptance.”
McCreath, who is open about her transsexualism, says she has noticed “a major positive change” since being open with her identity four years ago.
“It seemed quite evident that there was practically no knowledge or information about transsexualism in this city. I went to government entities. I went to the health care system and there was just very little information out there,” she recalls.
“I was kind of forced to look out for my own best interest and find resources and, unfortunately, I had to sink a lot of my own money into private health care. But now that I’ve gone through this and people are familiar with my experience. … finally (people and organizations) are approaching me.”
Brandon Jenkins, 19, an event organizer, says St. John’s Pride Week events have benefited him in important ways.
“Pride last year actually really helped me finalize the fact that, you know, I’m here and you might not like it, but it’s happening,” he says. “Pride is not just a way to celebrate; it’s also a way to reach out and realize who else is out there and dealing with the same things you’re dealing with, and to support one another. You know you’re not alone when you’ve been to Pride, and that’s why it’s is so important.”
Other Pride Week events include the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove’s inaugural Pride Day and flag raising ceremony Tuesday, a July 21 panel discussion on LGBTQ health care issues at the Arts & Culture Centre basement theatre, and a scavenger hunt and family picnic at Bannerman Park July 23, and much more.
“There will be a day in the future where being gay or being transgendered doesn’t separate you from anyone,” says Jenkins. “But you gotta know where you came from to know where you’re going.”