WINGHAM – On June 1, students from F.E. Madill Secondary School’s Plus Club, a student LGBTQIA inclusivity association, joined North Huron Reeve Bernie Bailey, township staff, and several onlookers to raise the Rainbow flag, also known as the Pride flag, in front of the town hall in downtown Wingham.
The flag will stay raised for the month of June to recognize and celebrate North Huron’s LGBTQIA community.
The flag went up despite the locking mechanism being vandalized the night before. Staff realized the lock had been damaged when they tried to change the flags.
Bailey said, “That’s OK; we’ll do it old school.”
Using a hammer and a punch tool, a maintenance worker quickly removed the damaged lock, enabling staff to continue with the task at hand.
Not letting this minor setback ruin the day’s mood, Bailey welcomed the group of students around 12:30 p.m.
“I just want to say on behalf of North Huron and North Huron council, we are so happy, so privileged to be a part of this,” said Bailey.
Bailey added, “This is the very first raising of this flag in North Huron, so we just want to say thank-you for stepping forward, and remember, always lead, never follow.”
Grade 9 student Madison Forster, 15, spoke on behalf of the group, thanking everyone for attending this monumental event.
The F.E. Madill Secondary School student explained the Plus Club “is inclusive of everyone, including straight allies,” adding, “we are very excited to be here, and we would like to thank everyone for joining us.”
The youth then joined Bailey and together raised the Pride Flag for the first time at town hall.
The students were beaming, bursting with pride at what they had accomplished simply by writing a letter to council, overcoming their fear, and standing up for their beliefs.
The first Rainbow flags, created by Gilbert Baker – an openly gay man and a drag queen – were flown in 1978 for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade.
The original Baker creation sported hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. However, the colours were changed to a six-striped flag (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) due to production issues.
In 1994, the Rainbow flag was truly established as the symbol for the LGBTQ community when Baker made a mile-long version of the flag to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which took place in New York City in June 1969.
The flag is now an international symbol of LGBTQIA pride and inclusion. It can be seen flying proudly worldwide during Pride month and beyond.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times