The Flin Flon Pride committee is days away from kicking off the community’s third annual Pride weekend, planning another three-day period of welcoming and warmth.
This year’s edition will begin with the now-customary flag raising 5 p.m. sharp at City Hall August 16, along with an opening prayer and guest speakers. Shortly after the ceremony will be the trans march, going from City Hall down Main Street and back to Pioneer Square. A barbecue will follow at Johnny's Social Club, including live music and entertainment, along with a party and film screening at the Kin Centre.
The Flin Flon Pride parade will take place August 17, starting on Green Street at 11 a.m. and following the same route as this year’s Canada Day parade, ending with a run down Main Street. Later, the Flin Flon Pride Committee will host the Drag Queen Mermaid pageant, Flin Flon’s firstever drag event, at The Unwinder. A retro dance party will follow the pageant. A pair of events, including the Pride in the Park family event at the Lions’ Spray Pool in Creighton and a special Pride Mass at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, will finish the festival.
While the Pride movement in Flin Flon is still somewhat nascent, holding only its third event this year, success stories of people involved with the group are already popping up. One of those success storiesis Andy Richard.
Until age 12, Richard presented outwardly as female. Just before junior high, Richard came to a realization - that the image of a female adolescent didn’t match with how Richard felt inside. It was not an overnight decision. It wasn’t easy.
“I first knew when I was around 12. I first started introducing myself to my friends in junior high, like Grade 7 or Grade 8.Thatwas when I first kind of started telling my close friends.”
After a long bout of soul searching, Richard came to a deep, personal realization. Richard began, both outwardly and inwardly, to identify as male. Pronouns would be switched and awkward questions would have to be asked, but on the whole, Richard’s decision was met with welcome arms from peers and authorities - barring a few unintentional hiccups.
“There were definitely some people who had a lot of questions, because it just, it’s not an everyday thing here. A lot of people had questions, but after answering them, most people, if not all, were supportive. Anyone that wasn’t never showed it to me directly.”
When Richard moved to Hapnot, some staff were unaware of his gender on his first day. A statement, made politely but with assertion, needed to be made.
“On my first day of Grade 9 at Hapnot, I walked into the office and I was like, ‘Here’s the deal. My name is Andy. These are my pronouns. This is what’s happening,” he said.
While blatant transphobia stayed mostly at bay, the angst and restlessness teenagers often experience came forth in Richard. Asthe only trans person at Hapnot at the time, he would have to chart his own path with few people around to help guide him.
An outside boost for Richard appeared about four years ago in the form of the Pride committee. Richard’s been involved since before the Pride committee was formed, first meeting other LGBTQ+ people and future committee members at a local vigil for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2015.
Since then, Richard has taken part in both of the previous Flin Flon Pride events and played a role in starting the accompanying trans march, held fort he first time last year. Richard walked in that march with members of his family, including his mother and brother, close by. He plans to take part in this year’s events, including both the trans march and Pride parade.
“It’s taught me to be a leader and an advocate for what I think isright. Before, I always knew I wanted to help people. That’s always kind of been my thing, something I enjoyed to do. Now, with the some of the stuff I’ve gained from Pride, whether it’s knowing how to work on a committee, knowing how to interact with people getting different perspectives from different people of all ages, I’ve heard stories and seen things I can definitely take with me.”
Earlier this year, Richard graduated from Hapnot and served as valedictorian for his graduating class. He’s performed in several school bands and learned several instruments. At the recent Blueberry Jam Music Gathering, Richard played the trumpet with a jazz combo, played guitar and sang while fronting a band of him and his friends. Later this summer, Richard will move to Vancouver to attend Capilano University, where he has received a scholarship worth $10,000 per year to study music therapy.
Away from the stage and the school, Richard has started providing guidance to younger students who feel the same way he felt back in junior high. While he’s not exactly a spokesman for trans people and does not want being trans to be seen as a defining feature of his life, he is someone who can help provide guidance to young people undergoing their own transitions.
“I like being out there because I like people knowing I’m a voice or a person that they can come talk to and I like showing young people especially, ‘Hey, I can be okay.’ I would have loved to look around and be like, ‘Hey, that’s a trans person, that explains how I’m feeling. Now I have the terms for it. Now I have the language to express how I’m feeling.’”
When asked, Richard said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of the local Pride movement.
“The Pride committee has become like a second family to me. I can go to any of the committee members who joined from any of the years and just be like, ‘Hey, this thing is going on in my life right now, can we talk?’ I’ve never been turned away. They’ve been such a great support system. They’ve boosted my confidence majorly,” he said.
“I still consider myself to be a fairly closed off person, but I’ve definitely opened up because of Pride. I definitely have done some things with Pride that I would not have imagined doing otherwise. I can’t imagine the person I would be without Pride now.”
While Vancouver beckons, don’t expect Richard to flee the north, never to return. He loves his hometown, especially the allies and friends he’s met along the way.
“I do have people who support me here and there are always going to be people that have my back here. It was this amazing, amazing experience,” he said.
“I know some trans people, they look back at their hometowns, especially small towns, and they can’t stand It because of how they were treated. That’s not the case for me. I love Flin Flon with all my heart and that has to do with how supportive everyone’s been. I think Pride has shown me that I do fit in here and I do have a place here.”