North Perth raises Pride flag for first time

·5 min read

NORTH PERTH – North Perth took a historic leap and added to the flags flying in front of its municipal building on June 3. To commemorate Pride Month, North Perth will fly – for the first time in its history – the Pride flag at the Listowel municipal office.

“When I think back to my childhood as a closeted gay kid in rural Ontario, my story is not unlike that of many of my friends and colleagues,” Stratford-Perth Pride president A.J. Adams recounted. He, along with North Perth Pride president Hollie Chavarria, was at the raising to speak on what it means to fly the flag in the community. “When I looked around, I didn’t see any gay couples, I didn’t see any Pride flag, any prioritization or parade that I could say ‘that is me.’ Today Listowel is changing that narrative so young kids and adults see a Pride flag and relate to something and say, ‘this is me. I am out. I am proud and this is a community that welcomes me.’”

After pushing back the event from June 1 due to weather, they staged the flying in an event that had watchers sprawled across the municipal building’s lawn. Chavarria, who has a young daughter, said in her speech that she recently investigated the Pride flag’s history with her.

“Last month, my daughter, she’s six years old, she and I went to the North Perth library in town here and we took a book out about the history of the Pride flag. Reflecting on what to say to you all today, I thought it might be fitting to share the Pride flag’s origins with you. I no longer have the book out from the library, so I took an excerpt here from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

“I’m going to read that for you today.”

According to her source, the designer of the flag, Gilbert Baker, was urged to create a symbol of pride by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly-gay politicians in the United States.

Baker saw the flag as ‘natural,’ which is why he went to the rainbow and stripes. He later said “our job as gay people was to come out, to be visible, to live in the truth, as I say, to get out of the lie. A flag really fit that mission, because that’s a way of proclaiming your visibility or saying, ‘This is who I am!’”

Council made the decision to fly the flag on May 16. Previous petitions to fly the flag were denied because of the municipality’s Policy for Flying of Banners and Flags and Proclamations. After amending the policy, council voted in a 7-3 decision to fly the flag, with Councillors Terry Seiler, Dave Johnston, and Deputy Mayor Kellum voting against the decision. They expressed support for Pride and the flag but worried that flying it on the municipal pole would create a worrying precedence. A community pole was suggested to ease some of those concerns and staff investigated that proposal.

Mayor Todd Kasenberg was at the event, which marked the beginning of North Perth Pride’s event-packed month. He spoke about what this means to the community and what the community means to him.

“On the assumption of the mayorship from almost moment one, I use the term ‘North Perth proud’ to talk about how our community needs to see itself,” Kasenberg explained. “I’ve encouraged others to use it and I’m grateful for the example that others have picked up in using that term. But today we have a new alignment – an amazing new alignment – associated with the word ‘pride.’ I’m really pleased that we can be bold today about this, that we can embrace the richness and the diversity of humanity, and, in particular, of those who are LGBTQ2S. It is a very special moment.

“We are kin. We need to see through those eyes. I will afford you to get just as you give it to me. I won’t discriminate on sexual orientation, race, or eye colour. We might have our disagreements about which Star Trek series we prefer, but I will still grant you respect under those circumstances… So today, we are celebrating diversity in a meaningful way. We are engaged in a work that eschews tribalism and calls us to grace. We reject discrimination from tribalism. We want goodness and discrimination, frankly, is not that. I, today, call myself – with deeper meaning than perhaps before – North Perth proud and proud.”

Kasenberg also took the time to address why the municipal pole was an important place to fly the Pride flag.

“There are some in the community who have expressed concerns about using this pole here at this site and there are some who have suggested that we need a community pole somewhere else and certainly other communities have done exactly that. They erected a pole for community flags. I want to celebrate it here in the heart of our community. At the heart of our community and I’m pleased to say that and acknowledge that.

“I want no message sent that we are putting this flag or people in this community into a closet because we are uncomfortable with the community seeing it. Not on my watch.”

MPP-elect Matt Rae, fresh off his win the night before, also came to the raising. He expressed his support to Stratford-Perth Pride and all they do for the community.

This is the second year of North Perth Pride and it has a host of events over the course of the month. For more information, visit northperthpride.com.

Connor Luczka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting