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LGBTQ community’s resilience celebrated during annual Pride parade

The familiar early-September sight of Calgary adorned with rainbow flags and people in bright-coloured outfits was again on display as the city’s annual Pride parade took over downtown streets on Sunday afternoon.

Signs of advocacy and alliance were held by regular attendees and new participants alike with bells and instruments accompanying them.

This year more than ever, however, organizers and community members have said that the message and meaning behind the celebration needs to be heard loud and clear.

“We are here, we are queer, and we are proud of that,” said Anna Kinderwater, communications manager with Calgary Pride. 

“We’ve had a lot of discrimination and a lot hate crimes and speech in general committed against the community this year. This isn’t necessarily new for us, but it is something that’s been heightened.”

Two people are pictured.
Shane Onyou (left) and Adora Nwofor (right) were two of this year’s parade marshals. (Laurence Brisson Dubreuil/Radio-Canada)

After months of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and acts of violence, thousands marched behind five advocates of Calgary’s transgender community on Saturday as a nod to the importance of visibility, representation and the community’s continued resilience.

A shift toward acceptance

While there has been a heightened sense of discrimination directed at the LGBTQ community in recent times, Heather Wing feels a growing sense of allyship and support for the community.

She’s been taking her kids to the parade since they were younger.

“We’re a queer family,” Wing said. “So it’s natural that we come here.”

More people are supporting her business and those she works with and says some seek out her business because of the support displayed for the community.

A woman is pictured.
Heather Wing says she’s noticed a lot of support for the LGBTQ community. (Helen Pike/CBC)

“It feels great, I don’t think we get a lot of resistance,” Wing said.

“Even people are seeking out my business allies because I put the Pride flag on my website, so I just think the shift is naturally happening.”

A celebration of human rights

In the time since Sahra Maclean first marched in the Pride parade 25 years ago, a lot has changed about the celebration and the community as a whole.

It’s a lot bigger than the one she was in more than two decades ago — and she’s also noticed a lot more diversity and inclusion within the parade.

“It’s an incredible community event celebrating human rights,” she said.

“It’s really powerful, especially young people who are seeing this and seeing that there’s so many people around you who support you and love you.”

Maclean, however, also noted that there was a larger presence of law enforcement than she expected.

“I’m really bummed to see so much police, heavy police presence,” she said, referring to the history and roots of Pride as a riot.

Organizers said that they were mandated to have police present, but recognize that it may be a point of trauma for many attendees.

“Pride’s past with the police is not one that is clean cut,” Kinderwater said.

“We’re working with people in the police system who are actually trying to figure out how to optimize how the police interact with the queer community.”

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