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LGBTQ+ In the City: Celebrating 50 Years of Pride

LGBTQ+ In the City: Celebrating 50 Years of Pride

A little introduction — I want to shine some light on a very important activist that remains underappreciated: Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson, a Black trans-identified American gay liberation activist was an outspoken advocate for gay rights constantly fighting the oppression and abuse, before, during, and after the famous Stonewall uprising in New York City back in 1969, the famous bar raid that became a watershed moment in gay history, where people like Marsha fought back against the oppressive misuse of violence against the LGBTQ community by law enforcement. By June 1970, Marsha and many other like-minded members of the community protested for equality, recognition, and acceptance.

The annual march, which started in 1970 and continues today is held every June. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF), an organization composed of black, queer and trans people, marched to raise awareness for gay rights and to demand equality in society. Until the early 1990’s, the parade was an activist march. As time moved forward, with huge liberal shifts in societal attitudes towards the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, the march is now reframed as “The Pride Parade.” As noted by those who have seen the evolution of the march, in time the event grew substantially in strength and support. I hope you enjoyed this little bit of history on how pride started. Let’s all thank Marsha P. Johnson this year as we celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall uprising.

To celebrate Pride I decided to ask some figures in the local Niagara LGBTQ+ community to share what pride means to them. They share their favourite pride memories as well as some inspirational quotes and historical and current figures who inspire them today.

Celeste Turner
(Youth Coordinator, Niagara Falls Community Health Centre)

What does pride mean to you?

Pride means being an open example of what it looks like to fully and authentically be exactly who YOU are. Not what society expects of you, your family expects of you, or anyone else’s expectations… breaking down “boxes” and expectations to be yourself. By living openly with pride, you set an example for others to be able to embrace themselves fully as well, even giving hope to those who may not be in a safe position to be able to do so yet.

What is one of your favourite pride memories?

This may not be a “pride event” specific memory but was a very special pride moment for me. Last November while at work for the Niagara Falls Community Health Centre (NFCHC) I was at a book donation event. My co-worker and I were looking through piles of books and collecting ones we thought would be appropriate for our various clients. While I was thinking about our LGBTQ+ Youth group here at NFCHC, I came across a book that I had read when I was in high school. The book was Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, which is about a teenage girl in high school who is discovering her sexuality and details her experiences with homophobia. As a closeted, fearful and isolated queer teenager I read this book MANY times in secrecy, and ironically even hid this book IN my closet. This book provided me with someone to resonate with (even if it was a fictional character) and it gave me hope for my future. Eventually the paranoia of this book being found by my family (who, by the way, turned out to be SO amazing and supportive) overcame me and I threw it out. I eventually forgot about the book and had not thought of it again for YEARS until that very moment at the book donation. I could barely believe it was even in my hands in that moment. The moment I found this book, I was overcome with pride and joy in realizing how far I had come in life – in accepting myself, by dedicating a great deal of my work to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and how I am a living example of pride every moment of every day of my life.

Favourite quote(s) and or sayings?

This quote by Derek Rydall, which is what I’ve based the name and logo of my yoga career Entelechy Yoga on – “Just as the acorn contains the mighty oak tree, the Self has everything it needs to fulfill its destiny. When the inner conditions are right, it naturally emerges.”

Patrick Alexander
(Comedian, writer, public speaker)

What does pride mean to you?

To me, Pride is feeling strength in your identity instead of weakness. It’s standing up and being counted. It’s being visible in your own community. It’s being unafraid of something that has caused you to feel afraid for so long. It’s loving yourself, so that you may love others. It’s understanding that a rainbow is both separate colours and a unified whole. It’s being recognized for facing the terror or being totally honest about yourself, despite possible rejection, violence and hatred from almost every sphere of social humanity, and still being able to realize your self-worth. It’s realizing that being LGBTQ+ is a gift, not a curse, and that being a part of this community means you will always be loved and you are never truly alone. And that makes me proud.
What is one of your favourite pride memories ? My favorite Pride memory has to be the first time I went to Toronto Pride in my early 20’s. I had been out for about a year, and I was still new and excited and idealistic and existentially terrified to be honest. But as I walked up from the depths of the TTC station into the sunlight, and stood among the crowd on Yonge St, I was overwhelmed. The street was electric, a massive throng of humanity stretching in every direction, the prediction being an attendance of almost 1 million. I felt so amazed, awestruck, and for the first time, very not alone. I had a complete blast, and realized the strength in our numbers, and that drag queens on floats with water guns are not to be played with.

Favourite quote(s) and or sayings?

My favorite quotes about Pride and LGBTQ+ are:
“No matter gay, straight, or bi/Lesbian, transgendered life/I’m on the right track, baby/I was born to survive.”
— Lady Gaga “Born This Way”
“I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole.”
— Morgan Freeman

Deb Pearce
(Radio personality, comedian, public speaker)

What does pride mean to you?

What does pride mean to me? It means getting together and showing the world strength in numbers. We exist. We are proud. We do not back down. We celebrate our diversity within our community. And we are love and love conquers hate every time.

What is one of your favourite pride memories ?

Too many to count. One of my favourite pride memories was performing in drag for the first time. We took over the stage for an hour just before Carole Pope performed and it was exhilarating.

Favourite quote(s) and or sayings?

If you don’t give homophobia/transphobia any oxygen to breathe and affect you, it can’t exist.

Enzo DeDivitiis
(Drag performer/entertainmer, co-founder of Pride Niagara)

What does pride mean to you? Officially, Pride honours the annual celebration in honor of the Stonewall riots which took place June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the GrenNich Village Manhattan, New York City. Friday, May 31, 2019 marks 50th Anniversary

Although today, Pride has become more of a celebration then a political statement, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pride celebrates our accomplishments and allows us freedom with our sexual and gender identities without prosecution. Pride also honours our history and with every new face that joins this celebration Pride reminds us that they’re still so many people being struggling and we as a community still have a long way to go and. So, to me its political and that epic celebration.

What is one of your favourite pride memory?

I have a few which is a blessing. My top two are, My very first Pride week in Toronto with some of my closest friends. Experiencing all that love, strength and unrequired but appreciated acceptance was so empowering. Being a part of the parade representing Niagara as Miss Gay St. Catharines and seeing and hear all those people celebrating with such pride and then hearing someone scream “YES St. Catharines Queen, I’m from Welland, IM FROM WELLAND!!!

Favourite quote(s) and or sayings?

“United we stand, divided they catch us one by one”
— Empress 1 José Sarria
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
— Maya Angelou

I want to thank the individuals who took part in this article and for sharing some of their pride with us. Happy 50 years Pride!!!

2019 Niagara Pride Week – June 1-8

June 1: 2019 Pride Niagara KickOff Party w/Latrice Royale! & 10th Annual Mr. & Miss Pride Niagara Competition – The Meridian Centre
June 3: 15th Annual Pride Flag Raising – St. Catharines City Hall
June 5: 6th Annual 2019 Niagara UNITY Awards, Preseneted by TD – Amici’s Banquet & Conference Hall
June 6: 1st Annual All Ages Pride Prom – Warehouse
June 8: 8th Annual Pride in the Park Festival – Montebello Park


June 6: Coming Out Stories w/Justin Preston, Founder of Rise Against Bullying – Niagara Falls History Museum

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