PERTH COUNTY – Stratford-Perth Pride is ramping up for the first Pride events under its new name, which encompasses all of Perth County, not just the City of Stratford.
“We have launched promotion for the Perth County Pride March June 5. We are hoping for that to be followed up by a small concert and ceremony at the Stratford Art Gallery to showcase the wonderful artistic element of our community,” said AJ Adams, president of Stratford-Perth Pride.
Then on June 12 in St Marys, the first annual St Marys Pride Day celebration will be held. It will be a family-focused event with children’s games, a drag storytime, music and a barbecue.
“We’re going to have some vendors from social services to local businesses where folks can get information and free swag like buttons and pride flags, so it’s a fun, family-friendly day,” said Adams. “Something super exciting is the downtown Pride Banner Program that the Town of St Marys will be launching this year, so on June 1, we’ll be raising a flag at town hall, and we’re also going to be officially launching the downtown banner program.”
He pointed out that Perth County is fortunate enough to have three Pride organizations planning events this year.
“The Stratford Pride Community Centre will be opening on Saturday, June 4,” said Adams. “Folks are invited to come to that event and check out the first LGBTQ2S+ community centre in a rural community which is super exciting.”
“Between our three organizations, June is filled with exciting events,” said Adams. “I know each of our organizations is hoping to plan more things, so whether people are looking for a drag show or a small family event, there are various options for people to come out and celebrate Pride.”
From banning conversion therapy to removing the blood ban, Canada has seen the recent success of queer-led protest and advocacy.
“Still more needs to be done, and that’s why we’re calling it the Perth County Pride March rather than a parade,” he said. “In addition to fighting homophobia and transphobia in our communities, there are significant gaps in LGBQ2S+ social and health services”.
Adams mentioned that Pride started as a political movement, not a celebration.
“It started as a March to advocate for change as things like being gay were illegal at the time,” he said. “A lot of the time, Pride organizations focus on celebrating, but we’ve forgotten our roots. We’ve forgotten our purpose of Pride as being advocates for change for the better for our communities, so although we live in Canada, which is one of the best countries to be out and proud, there is still a lot that needs to be changed.”
Adams noted that there’s still a lot of homophobia and transphobia in rural Ontario.
“We want to make sure that we add that element and bring that element back into our Pride offerings,” he said. “That’s why we’ve branded the Stratford Pride parade into the Perth County Pride March. Often you will see people saying – I’m out and proud – but we want people to come out and voice their concerns so the community can see that we can celebrate, but there is also more that we need to do to make our communities a better place. That can include carrying banners that talk about specific things like the need for better gender-affirming care and saying no more homophobia, no more transphobia. We want to make sure this is a space where people can voice their concerns.”
Adams acknowledged some people might say a protest is not a family event but he pointed out there are gay families same-sex parents and queer youth who want to see change.
“The homophobia and the transphobia that we see in political parties, it’s not specific to rural Ontario,” said Adams. “Rural Ontario has a higher per capita right-wing view for various historical reasons, but it is sad to see that new parties and groups are forming centred around hate, whether homophobia or white supremacy. That is why it is important to add that protest element back into Pride and say we see you creating these new hate-based groups. We’re not going to stand for that. We’re going to say love is love, and we are going to continue to fight for the rights of people to be who they are and love who they want to love.”
The Perth County Pride March will take place on June 5 at 1 pm. The walking route will be from the Tom Patterson Theatre to Upper Queen’s Park. Attendees are encouraged to wear their favourite rainbow colours and bring signs to the march on LGBTQ2S+ topics where they would like to see action.
“In addition to being a gathering of Perth County’s LGBTQ2S+ community and allies, this is an opportunity for our community to voice our need for better,” said Adams.
Stratford-Perth Pride encourages everyone to sign-up for the march so they have an estimate of the participation.
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