Last week, I was at a school board meeting where, for the first time, the Flin Flon School Division announced they would hold their own Pride week later this month, complete with a flag-raising event.
As someone who grew up here, that warms my heart.
Before I get going here, let me acknowledge who I am. I’m not the target demographic for Pride. I’m a cisgender white guy. The only time I ever have to worry about sexual discrimination is when I get rejected in a bar.
That said, for whatever reason, I’ve always been drawn to LGBTQ+ issues because there’s no reason somebody should have to feel like a second-class citizen because of who they are.
There was a time when that wasn’t a prevalent thought in Flin Flon, or Canada as a whole it seemed. I remember going to Hapnot Collegiate at a time when homophobia was still present, where slurs were used often and LGBTQ+ people were, from time to time, targeted. Some of these were what we’d call microaggressions today. Sometimes, they were outright aggressions. Punches were thrown at least once. Threats were made. Hate was displayed.
People who were LGBTQ+ often found it easier to not acknowledge who they were. Sometimes that meant staying closeted. Sometimes that meant being out to a small number of friends and family, but not being able to live their own way out in the world. Double lives were created and lived.
That isn’t even that long ago, either; less than a decade. If we go back into Canada’s history with LGBTQ+ people, it’s not a happy story. Back in the day, homosexuality – or nearly any type of non-heterosexual love or behaviour – was illegal in Canada. Police raids on gay hangouts, beatings in the street, grisly murders and serial killers preying on LGBTQ+ people are all part of that history. If someone was caught in a raid of a gay bar or a bathhouse back in the 1960s and 1970s, police would call their families, their employers, sometimes even their landlords. At a time when you could still fire or evict someone for being gay, that was equivalent of dumping them in tar and pasting them with feathers.
A lot of people had to fight for a long time in order to roll back those laws, to stop the raids, to have their own spaces and places in the world where you can be who you truly are and be safe.
In Flin Flon, I think people have changed. I couldn’t see an event like Flin Flon Pride taking place in my hometown even five years ago. When I covered the first Pride parade in Flin Flon back in 2017, that was a common refrain.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this in Flin Flon,” followed by, “I’m so proud we’re doing this in Flin Flon.”
Nobody beat anyone up. Nobody was threatened. All was love, and love was all.
A common thread I’ve heard from people who dislike Pride celebrations or the LGBTQ+ community in general comes in the form of a one sentence question; “Why don’t we have a straight pride parade?”
When being straight is made illegal, when straight people are beaten and killed just for being straight, when police raid straight bars (sports bars?) and chuck people out on the sidewalk in cuffs, when you could be fired or kicked out of your home if whoever’s in charge even thinks you might be straight, when at least one serial killer deliberately preys upon straight people because they knew they were marginalized and forgotten... then you can have your own parade.
There could very well be Flin Flonners out there in the world “bravely” posting on an internet comments board about their dislike for Pride or the very existence of LGBTQ+ people.
They don’t matter in any larger conversation, but we can never – no matter who we are or what strata in society we occupy – take our rights for granted. We must use our rights and promote them. Much the same as the women’s rights and suffrage movements, as the civil rights movements both here and in the U.S., with the ongoing struggle for Indigenous recognition in our own country, we can’t stop fighting for what’s right. There will never be a firm, final victory, but there are a lot of ways to lose.
Here’s a statement from us. We support Pride and we support LGBTQ+ people. You have value. You exist and you deserve to celebrate who you are, what you do and the people who fought so hard, both here and elsewhere, for you to have those rights and freedoms today.