LGBTQ2S support group Proud Spirits of the North made history June 8 by hosting Gillam’s first-ever Pride event, which involved around 100 people and took place over the course of the entire day.
According to organizer John Peters, the festivities kicked off with a rally at the Fox Lake Cree Nation monument site around 11 a.m., where residents discussed the importance of visibility and the history of the Pride movement.
“We talked a lot about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and how the LGBT movement was started by trans people ofcolour,” said Peters, who identifies as two-spirit Indigenous man. “And [we talked about] the importance of having this space, this group and acknowledging and recognizing we have the same rights to access healthcare services.”
From there, the participants marched to the town’s baseball field where they spent the afternoon taking part in a variety of family friendly activities such as a barbecue and sharing circle, where people were encouraged to talk about their own experiences as members of the LGBTQ2S community.
Later that night, things eventually wrapped up with an after-party at Gillam’s Royal Canadian Legion.
While he didn’t set any expectations for how this day would turn out, Peters was happy with the end result, especially since the event organizers didn’t received any backlash from fellow members of the community.
“I actually went to Steinbach for their first Pride event and saw a lot of the pushback,” he said, referencing the southern Manitoba city’s tumultuous inaugural Pride march back in 2016. “When I was helping to plan this event I was a bit concerned that we might see a little pushback or absolute resistance, but there was absolutely none.”
Peters went on to say that Gillam’s Pride celebration was the brainchild of resident Sarah Henderson, who founded Proud Spirits of the North back in early 2018 as a way to support local members of the LGBTQ2S community like her transgender child.
In May of this year, Peters said Henderson contacted him about taking this kind of community engagement to the next level by organizing a public Pride event that would help residents escape the isolation that usually comes hand in hand with living in a small town.
“I want youth in this community who are LGBTQ2S to grow up and not feel like they have to escape Gillam to achieve a sense of well-being,” said Peters. “I want them to feel connected, I want them to feel like they have support, that they have space where they are being recognized and their needs are met.”
Moving forward, Peters said he and the other organizers want to turn this event into an annual affair for the second week of June.
“We’re really not sure how that’s going to look,” he said. “But we do want to make it a much larger, a much bigger event that could potentially attract people from surrounding communities like Thompson, Tataskweyak, Churchill, Nisichawayasihk, Lynn Lake.”