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  • Writer's pictureDouglas W. Judson

Remarks from Pride Week 2019

Remarks | These remarks were delivered on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at Rainy Lake Square in Fort Frances as part of Borderland Pride’s 2019 Pride March. Check against delivery.

Good afternoon, and happy Pride!

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the drum, and that we are gathered here together on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe – a land that is also home to the Metis people.

My name is Douglas Judson. I am on town council here in Fort Frances, and I am here with my partner, Peter Howie. We are the directors of Borderland Pride.

Making Pride happen is a labour of love. And as one of our drag queens reminded us last night, that labour is physical, and also sometimes emotional, because it puts us on the front lines of our cause.

It exposes us to the continuing struggle for equality and justice for the LGBTQ2 community – but also the smaller, private battles of queer people – often the struggle simply to be loved and respected for who they are and the gifts they bring.

But that is why we do this work, but it would not be possible without all of you. Pride is powered by public participation, and today our tank is full. Just look at all of you. You look incredible!

Those who have visited Scott Street this week will see that almost every single window has rainbow flag or message of inclusion. This is only the second time we have celebrated Pride in the Borderland region, and already the question people are asking isn’t “why does so-and-so have that flag in their window?” but instead “why isn’t that business participating? What’s their problem?”

And that’s how it should be. LGBTQ2 inclusion must not only be the default, but all of us must be forthright in sharing those values.

It’s a critically important message, even in 2019 – a time when LGBTQ2 people around the world, and right here in Canada and the United States continue to experience inequality, discrimination, and even targeted, malicious acts of violence.

Under the Trump administration in the United States, Republican legislators and even judges have continued to treat LGBTQ2 people and families as second-class – subjugating our basic human rights to unholy strains of religious freedom.

And right here in Canada, a new provincial government in Alberta has introduced legislation that threatens the safety of kids who attend GSAs, while in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford refuses to attend Pride events. And Andrew Scheer, one of the candidates to become Prime Minister of Canada talks about us like we are a bad rash that needs to be tolerated.

That is simply unacceptable and each of us has a role in demanding more and better from our public office holders, whether they sit in the Mayor’s seat in International Falls or are running for the highest office of the land.

We might not be able to stop our neighbours from voting for bullies. But one thing about us gays, is that we know how to deal with bullies. We get louder, we get prouder, and we work harder to educate our neighbours on how their decisions to support certain political candidates or organizations put equity-seeking people like us at risk.

Last year, when we did this for the first time, we made a deliberate choice to shield you from some of the negativity that was directed towards Pride. We did not want to bring a shadow over these events that might drive people away before they had even started.

But we’ve now built a community of purpose. And as we move forward, our task requires us to expose homophobia and transphobia in order to build a movement - so that each of us has the facts, knowledge, and awareness to challenge oppressive conduct and inequity in our midst.

Pride is punctuating a moment of transition for our communities, and while there is so much work left to do, there is much to celebrate. Things are changing, and through Pride we can direct that transformation in a positive direction.

We can better assert our small, northern communities as places of welcome and inclusion – places where new families, young professionals, or entrepreneurs can put down roots and live openly, confident in the love and respect they will receive.

We can find new ways to celebrate diversity and culture for people of all ages.

We can recommit ourselves to the cause of reconciliation, and the reclamation of two-spiritedness and the centrality of that identity to Indigenous tradition.

And we can find new ways to build bridges – not just between two great countries – but between different pockets of our communities that share common values and a connection to LGBTQ2 inclusion, or simply an LGBTQ2 loved one.

Finally, I’d like to recognize all of the volunteers and sponsors that have made Pride Week possible in 2019. They are too many to name here, but please acknowledge our “Volunqueers” if you see them today, and check out the full list of our sponsors on our website. Their leadership on diversity and inclusion is important. We couldn’t do this without them.

I am painfully aware that I am now standing between you and food and entertainment, so with that, thank you, miigwetch, and happy Pride!

This Pride is for everyone. Thank you for being a part of it.

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