Accepting others. Being yourself. Family. Community. Activism. Passion. Expression. A safe place. Stronger together. These are the various ways York Region’s 2SLGBTQ+ community express what Pride means to them, and this is the message they conveyed Wednesday night at the start of York Pride Fest’s Digital Pride celebrations.
York Pride kicked off their online celebrations on June 2 with this celebration of expression, but the joy of Pride was tempered by the stark realities of injustice.
“The discovery of Indigenous children found in Kamloops has shaken Canada to its core,” said host Tera Gillen-Petrozzi of Big Brother Canada, introducing a land acknowledgement from Anishinaabe Ojibway Grandmother Kim Wheatley of the Shawnaga First Nation. “We must recognize this. This is a conversation that cannot be ignored. The best way for York Pride to kick off this event is to show love and support for our Indigenous peoples.”
Lived experiences were the key to this week’s Pride commemorations with a conversation for 2SLGBTQ youth intended to be a forum to sound off on the issues that matter.
“Youth within the Greater Toronto Area and York Region will share real fears, constructive criticisms, and their feelings on the ever-changing landscape in our communities,” say organizers. “With a Federal Election fast approaching, we want you to speak up and be heard. This is the time to be unapologetically truthful, to spark change, and make strides to raise awareness on ongoing issues in our community. Some topics that will be up for discussion will involve: homophobia, transphobia, racism, mental health, education, work and many more important things that affect how we grow, work and play in our communities. This program will accomplish this through various techniques such as music, poetry, dance, spoken word, debate and art.”
Continuing through next week, Virtual Pride will offer trivia nights on June 16 and 28 from 7 – 8 p.m. and, on June 18 from 7 – 9 p.m., a comedy night for the 19+ crowd.
“Put your knowledge of 2SLGBTQ+ history, entertainment and fabulous facts to the test,” say organizers. “Hosted by local drag queens, this night is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat with three rapid fire rounds of live trivia. With three top prizes to give away, you won’t want to be late for this party! Simply set up the live stream on your computer and go to kahoot.it on your phone to join in the quizzical experience.
“Viewer discretion is advised (for comedy night)! This June, we showcase three local comedy artists encouraging them to represent their personal stories through a new level of sass, humour, and attitude on the Digital Pride stage. Not only will this be an opportunity to relate with each other, but also create the perfect environment to read each other in a fun and playful way. The night will also feature special performances from a local renowned 2SLGBTQ+ Canadian icon, who is full of humour and has some wild performance skills. Since we are all in quarantine, I guess we will only be making inside jokes for right now. So, grab your drinks, laugh a little, and join us for a comedic night unlike any other.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran