Pride Month: A Colourful Milestone

By: Eva Bertrand-Brunelle
Editorial Support: Andrew Stalker, Kathryn Collicott and Sherry Neville-MacLean
Originally Published: March 2018 – ACALA NEWS – Vol. 5, Iss. 1

On January 1, a month of celebration and action began. It was Pride Month in Antigonish. In past years, Pride celebrations in Antigonish only lasted for one week. This year, a whole month was dedicated to diversity and inclusivity. The events took place on St FX campus and at several local establishments. Among the events were a Pride flag-raising ceremony, church service, and the annual drag show: Priscilla Queen of the Highlands. It was a month filled with colours and sparkles. People representing different backgrounds, sexual orientations, and age groups enjoyed being part of something important. The events were a great way for people to come together and celebrate the LGBTQIA + community.

Priscilla Queen of the Highlands 2018

Priscilla Queen of the Highlands 2018
Photo credit: Gabriel Shay Enxuga

Bre O’Handley, the St FX Gender and Identity Advisor, said in an interview that “a lot of the events during Pride Week were more party-oriented, so it’s nice to offer events to a different demographic… having things like the potluck, coffeehouse, and vigil; it was really great!” One event that had great energy and a spirit of acceptance and open-mindedness was the X-Pride Coffee-House at the Tall & Small Café that took place January 18. The event was attended by a crowd of younger people who were able to enjoy music, poetry, and spoken word performed by a diverse range of engaging artists. There were several queer couples sharing affection without fear of discrimination or violence being directed toward them. It was a very inclusive night. Meghan Peters, co-owner of the Tall & Small, described her café as “a safe space for [the] LGBTQIA + and community because I feel we stress that everyone who works for us be accepting of everyone in our community. Zack [co-owner and husband of Meghan] and I both are allies to the queer community.”

On January 28, at Wellspring on campus, there was a church service attended by Sister Jovita MacPherson from the Sisters of St. Martha (Catholic Church), Reverend Peter Smith from the St. James United Church, Reverend Sue Channen from St. Paul the Apostle Anglican Church, and Pastor Jerry Clubine from the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church here in town. Robert Chatterton, President of X-Pride at St FX, reflected on the event stating, “There is an intersection now that happens for those who are both queer and Christian, and I think that this event was a healing moment for those who hold both identities and want to embrace both identities, of being both queer and Christian.”

Another first-time event was the vigil that took place at Wellspring earlier in the month, on January 14. People came together to mourn the death of victims of hate crimes and remember and celebrate their lives. People were sharing their experiences of being queer and living in Antigonish. Not too long ago, it was illegal to be gay, and many perceived homosexuality as a mental illness; unfortunately, some still do. “I talked to a community member who thanked me after the vigil,” Bre remembered. “It was really awesome having that space because there aren’t a lot of queer-inclusive places in Antigonish…. Not because people aren’t inclusive but because no one is doing the work to provide those spaces.” 

On February 3, after more than a month of celebration, a Rainbow Party at Piper’s Pub was planned. It was exciting as Piper’s has been an important venue for students and the Antigonish community for years. ‘The Pub’ was plastered in colorful decorations and a few people were even dressed as colours of the rainbow. Small town Nova Scotia bars are not often viewed as queer friendly. It is important to note that, despite positive steps, the nature of most social gathering places is still heteronormative, and safe nightlife spaces for the LGBTQIA + community members can be hard to find. Many people from the queer community said they didn’t feel comfortable holding hands, kissing or dancing with their partner at the event. They didn’t feel like they were in a completely safe space. Some members of the queer community who attended the event reported instances of discrimination and verbal aggression. Stacy Doiron, a Rainbow Party attendee, described a situation that happened to her: “I was in line to get in, [and] I overheard a guy say something homophobic to his buddies, something like ‘f***ing gay.’ I called them out on it, but one of them got argumentative and aggressive with me. I felt fearful but managed to get away from him because it was my turn to go inside the bar. In the back of my mind, I was thinking of friends who have been beat up.” This type of experience is still all too real for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and it shows that there is still work to be done.

An anonymous Rainbow Party attendee said: “For me … it more or less just seemed like a normal night at the pub. It wasn’t the colourful LGBTQ takeover of the pub that we wanted, sure, but now we know the steps we can take to get us closer to having that night. When the next one of these happens, I’ll go. I’ll support it.”  Stay tuned for next year’s events.

Note at time of republication: Since 2018, the acronym for the Queer community has changed. LGBTQQIP2SAA is a comprehensive version used by the Canadian Bar Association today, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous and asexual.

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