Young people at Kingston Pride this year. (Photo by Kendra Pierroz)
Twenty-six years after its first frightful stroll, Kingston Pride is still taking strides to raise awareness.
More people and major cities than ever are openly participating in the celebration of diversity and joining the movement for change.
But while Kingston Pride is joyously celebrated today, Alexander W. Young, Kingston Pride’s official spokesperson, said it was considered a serious and anxiety-ridden event in the past.
“It’s like night and day what society was like here in the 80s versus today,” Young said, who grew up in Kingston. “I am a straight male, but I witnessed homophobia first-hand.”
It was only in 1989, that Kingston experienced its first walk for change, following in the footsteps of major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
Nancy Tatham and a team of gay rights supporters led a stroll through Princess St. in hopes of ending the stigma against gays in the Kingston community — also known as the first Pride “stroll”.
While today, cities celebrate Pride with flying colours and nudity, Tatham and supporters anxiously walked Princess St. with only one banner, reading “lesbian and gay Kingston”.
In 1995, Tatham and three others: Joanne Page, Margaret Hughes and Pam Havery, sought further justice for the gay community by approaching the municipality and Kingston’s mayor at the time, Helen Cooper, demanding there be a Pride Day.
After much deliberation, stress and anxiety, the group’s declaration for an annual Pride day was accepted, and so Kingston Pride was born.
This year, on June 13, individuals of all identities gathered in City Park to celebrate Kingston’s 26th annual Pride Parade — an initiative that seeks to inspire, educate, commemorate and celebrate diverse communities such as the LGBTQ community.
Young was one of the many who participated in the event.
Over the course of 26 years, Kingston has evolved into a comfortable home for diverse communities, Young said.
“It’s totally amazing how far we’ve come. Minds can change and they have. It’s great to see this. To be alive and be able to witness this is just incredible.”
Although Kingston has made great progress, Young said there’s always room for improvement. No matter how much we think we know about the diverse communities, there is still so much to be learned — especially with the upbringing of new movements.
Initially, Pride was celebrated for gay men, but then included lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. Pride has now become a larger movement for all diverse communities. According to Young, Kingston Pride is trying to represent everyone in the community.
“I can only see our pride celebrations becoming more intense, more fun and more celebratory,” Young said.
This year, not only does Kingston celebrate 26 years of Pride, but also 26 years of progress since its first stroll.
Without it, Kingston Pride wouldn’t be possible today.
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