Thousands of people gathered in and around Winnipeg's downtown on Sunday to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in the province, the first in-person Pride Parade since before the pandemic.
Chloe Minkley celebrated their first in-person Pride Parade since they came out as pansexual in 2019 and eventually as genderqueer.
"It means a lot to be able to take my sister [to the parade] and no longer be afraid to show," Minkley said, wearing the colours of the pansexual flag.
Over the years, Minkley experienced shame and loneliness stemming from their gender expression and sexuality, but took the day to celebrate who they are.
"I have supportive people now and I'm so glad for them and I like the only people allowed in my life are people who will support me and love me fully," Minkley said.
Chantel Pavao attended the parade with her mother Sally and father John, both wearing shirts expressing their pride in their daughter.
For Chantel, the feeling of being at Pride with her support system was overwhelming, even six years after coming out
"I never thought when I was younger that I'd be out, accepted by my parents and even be here. Being here today, here with them, them wearing their shirts, just supporting me for being me, there's no words," she said.
Sally said she wishes Chantel would have come out sooner so she could live authentically.
"We don't care who she loves ... we would never love her any less," she said through tears. "I'm a proud mom."
Drag queen Contessa Lestrange said the day couldn't get any better.
"Ever since I was a teenager coming to Winnipeg Pride, coming here and seeing all of us together ... it just makes me remember that I'm not alone and queer people are never an island," she said.
Feather Talia rode on the float for local organization Sunshine House to represent "Indigiqueers" near and far.
Although there's always room to grow in terms of promoting and supporting LGBTQ+ rights, Talia said queer people are good at supporting one another.
"I feel like what we do and what we try to promote is like self-love, self-acceptance. And I think we're doing a good job as a community," Talia said.
Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray, who was one of the first openly gay mayors in North America, became emotional on Sunday thinking about how far the LGBTQ+ community has come.
"I remember in '86 and '87 when this all started, we had 80 people show up wearing paper bags over their heads with the eyes cut out because there was no human rights protection, and showing up here meant you lost your job," he said.
"I don't think in my entire life I ever believed that we would, in my lifetime, experience the kind of liberation of our souls and our hearts and the kind of human equality."
Further to go
Although Pride is a celebration, many say it's also a rallying cry to work toward full inclusion of all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Some who walked in the parade held signs to call for gender-inclusive health care, while others advocated for harm reduction measures to be implemented.
Pride Winnipeg president Barry Karlenzig says there's much more work to do.
"Right now there's a lot of our community partners that don't have equal rights. They're still persecuted at their job. They're still persecuted where they are. That's not right," he said.
Murray, who's seen where the province was more than 30 years ago, is hopeful for the future seeing the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community on the streets of Winnipeg.
"It gives me particular hope as we take on some of the worst and most difficult prejudices and systemic racism," he said.