Published: July 19, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
Red Lake will join other Northwestern Ontario towns in making local history next weekend by hosting its first Red Lake Pride LGBTQ2 Two-Spirit Celebration.
Set to kick off on July 28 with a meet and greet with advocates Ma Nee Chacaby and Teddy Syrette, Red Lake Pride will include a March in Centennial Park and family-centric activities at Keesic (Kinsman) Beach on July 29.
“It is not just for LGBTQ2 but everybody together,” said Wasanabin Youth Worker Karly McDonald earlier this week when asked who should attend the weekend event. “Even if you are not two spirit yourself a lot of people have cousins or aunts that they love very much. It is a way to show their support and come together. It is definitely going to be a community event.”
Mcdonald, who works for the Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre, says the idea to host a local event this summer was driven from the youth in the community and artist Patrick Hunter.
“We were actually having a dinner with Patrick Hunter and we were discussing LGBTQ2, such as being two spirited and various topics around that. He mentioned that ‘you guys have to advocate for yourself and be your biggest fan’ and we kind of got rolling on if we were to do a Pride day what kind of work would go into that and that is what sparked the interest.”
Hunter says after the dinner he was surprised at the openness and courage that the students exhibited.
“These youth are living how they want to live now!” said the artist recently. “I’m so in awe of them and I can’t say how proud I am of them enough. They really manifested this Pride and are volunteering a lot of their time to make it happen along with a lot of volunteers from the Friendship Centre and the community as well.”
Co-organizer Tara Benes says the event has been well received by community members and local businesses.
“I think no one has taken the opportunity to do it,” said Benes while discussing why it has taken till now to develop an event of this nature in the district.
“It is a lot harder to stick out in a small town. It is a lot harder to be different when everyone around you seems to be the same. I think that is why it is has taken so long in our community.”
McDonald adds there are currently “a lot of strong youth advocates” for the LGBTQ2 community that has “sparked the interest and passion” of organizers to get an event put together.
The event Opening Ceremony is set for 11 a.m. at Centennial Park with addresses by Mayor Phil Vinet, Ma Nee Chacaby and Teddy Syrette along with a pre-Pride picnic sponsored by the Northwestern Health Unit. Beach activities include a BBQ by the Kids are Recreationally Equal program, face painting, crafts sponsored by New Starts for Women, paddle boarding, vendors, games, an appearance by Rainbow the Clown, The Clever Corvid Art and Art Workshops with Rhonda Beckman and an appearance by local artist Patrick Hunter.
Statement about Red Lake Pride – Patrick Hunter
Red Lake Pride was born out of a conversation at a dinner I was having with some youth in the Wasanabin program at the Friendship Centre. We talked about what it’s like living in Red Lake and being LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay Bi, Trans, Questioning, 2spirit). I was so surprised at their courage and openness about being out an proud as teenagers, because I definitely was not.
My early teenage years were probably the worst years of my life because I knew I was gay since I was self-aware as a child, but felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. There were definitely people at school that suspected though, and would go out of their way to make sure I felt like I was less than, and that I didn’t belong. I turned things around during my last 2 years of high school because I realized that if I did well enough in school, and took on extra curricular activities, that that would be my ticket out of Red Lake.
I couldn’t wait to be anywhere else so I could start living my life how I wanted. These youth are living how they want to live now! I’m so in awe of them and I can’t say how proud I am of them enough. They really manifested this Pride and are volunteering a lot of their time to make it happen along with a lot of volunteers from the Friendship Centre and the community as well.
High school, and being a teenager is never easy. I’m sure that even though these youth are stronger and more brave than I was at that age, they probably still have some of the same negative experiences I had growing up in Red Lake 15+ years ago.
That being said, for me the first Red Lake Pride is a leap in the right direction to start changing mindsets about the LGBTQ2 community. I can’t wait for the day when LGBTQ2 people don’t have to begin their stories with a negative view of their childhoods, and their horrific tales of the years spent in high school. Pride is necessary. It’s necessary because there’s a great number of us, LGBTQ2 people, who don’t make it through that time in our lives, and there is no greater lesson for all communities to learn at this point in history than tolerance.