Updated: Jan 28, 2020
Remembering the roots of Pride
In 2018, the Edmonton Pride Parade took place the second week of June. This year, there will be no parade.
The cancellation of the event was the breaking point of a wider problem, stirring up a controversial dialogue between the Edmonton Pride Festival Society and the greater LGBTTQQIAAP community.
As a queer, non-binary individual from Edmonton, Amanda (One of our CCC members), shares her thoughts and opinions on the history of Pride and a positive future.
My name is Amanda Bladon and I am a queer non-binary person from Edmonton, Alberta. Identifying as non-binary fits my gender identity because I am a combination of masculinity and femininity. Some people who are non-binary may be a combination as well or be neither in their gender expression. Gender identity is separate from sexual or romantic orientation and non-binary persons have a variety of sexual orientations. My sexual orientation is queer rather than lesbian, because I am attracted to women but I do not identify as exclusively female.
It’s not commonplace for heterosexual people to introduce themselves to the world based on their orientation. Or their gender. So why does this feel like a necessary step in the queer community?
Until we are at a point societally, where all sexual orientations and gender identities are accepted, queer and non-binary people need more representation and visibility. This is why National Coming Out Day still exists. Why Pride exists. Progress has been made, but it is not enough.
Being who I am and living my life as I do, certainly brings on its own challenges not only personally but also from society. Over the years, I have had numerous verbal homophobic attacks spewed at me while I was simply walking down the street. I’ve been called derogatory names, had people challenge me physically and have had my life threatened.
All because of looking the way that I do. Or holding the hand of someone I love.
It was important for me to connect with other queer women and non-binary persons, which is why I started a Facebook group dedicated to this marginalized community. I wanted an online hub where people could feel safe, vent and connect with other individuals who are going through the same or similar experiences. In a threatening and tumultuous political climate, and a society that asks us to differentiate ourselves based on our sexual orientation, those who don't fit into a heteronormative narrative, who don't identify as cisgender or heterosexual, need a safe space to retreat to.
Nonetheless, just because we have shared experiences, doesn’t necessarily mean that all members of the LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) community always see eye to eye.
Our community is at odds, which most recently, resulted in the cancellation of the 2019 Edmonton Pride Festival. It is important to note that the cancellation of this festival was not because of the voting in of the United Conservative Party in the Alberta Election in April 2019; this cancellation was an internal issue but more importantly, is a reflection of the systemic racism that is flowing through our community.
In 2018, the Edmonton Pride Parade was halted for 30 minutes, when a group of queer and trans people of colour and their allies blocked its route in protest. They demanded:
1. That the Pride Society uninvite the RCMP, military, and Edmonton Police Service from marching in future parades.
2. That the society re-structures its board and staff hiring practices to have more representation from people of colour and trans folks.
3. That more well-funded spaces specifically designed for people of colour and trans folks be included in the festival.
4. That all mainstream pride spaces clearly acknowledge and honour pride’s history as a demonstration against police oppression.
At the time, the Edmonton Pride Festival Society agreed to their demands, but unfortunately, everything started unravelling over the course of the next 10 months.
4 transgender people of colour were fired from the Pride Centre of Edmonton with no explanation.
Shades of Colour, a queer + trans, indigenous, black and people of colour organization, were locked out of a meeting held by the Edmonton Pride Festival Society and then had the police called on them, leaving them out in the cold and blatantly silenced.
When pressure was put on the Edmonton Pride Festival Society and the Pride Centre of Edmonton for answers and accountability, these marginalized members of our community were ignored and silenced even further.
When the media took note and even more pressure was put on the Edmonton Pride Festival Society for answers, they ultimately chose to cancel the entire festival altogether in a rather vague fashion. The onus was then put on QTBIPOC members, some people even blaming them for the cancellation of the festival.
This has truly fuelled a massive separation within our community. Some people believe that the QTBIPOC are responsible for the cancellation of Pride, that their demands were unreasonable and that the exclusion of uniformed police and military members is unfair. They feel that their Pride, or the Pride that they have come to know and love, is under attack.
But how can we actively celebrate a Pride that has lost sight of where Pride came from in the first place? Pride is a protest. Edmonton Pride’s very own roots were in protest of a police raid on a gay bathhouse. We march for our rights; for our voices to be heard.
Queer, trans, black, indigenous, people of colour voices need to be heard. If members of our community are being failed, we are all failing. We need to fund safe spaces for them, donate to their causes, listen to their demands and act on them, and do our damn best to rectify years of abuse, violence, oppression and murder. We need to step out of our privilege, remember the roots of Pride and why we are all here in the first place.
They deserve better. They need better.
Their lives are dependent upon it.
Listen to some courageous voices and consider adding your own.
With a background in film and publishing, Amanda is a wine and craft beer aficionado actively pursuing similar expertise in cannabis. Along with managing the publishing company she owns with her mom, Amanda runs a local LGBTQ club, encouraging everyone towards positivity and pride.
Learn more about Amanda and AHLOT's other Cannabis Curation Committee members here.