The Quesnel Pride Society hopes it will be a rockin’ good time on Saturday, June 11.
After a two-year hiatus, the annual Quesnel Pride Parade will return, followed by a pride after-party featuring DJ Riki Rocket, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band and LGBTQ+ community, and a burlesque show.
“We’re feeling very excited about it,” said society president Alison Prentice.
“We’ve had it planned for a while, but we needed to confirm some of the key acts that we wanted to secure before we released the date.”
Confirmation of the parade comes on the heels of the society’s first-ever community needs assessment survey, which some of the results Prentice described as “heartbreaking.”
Half of the respondents indicated they had been the subject of homophobic jokes and slurs, and a quarter of respondents said they had been threatened.
Four per cent had been physically assaulted.
“Even more disturbing 37 per cent had been rejected by family and friends,” Prentice said. “That’s disheartening in this day and age that that happens.”
For Prentice, it is especially difficult that people still do not understand the power of their words and what consequences can occur by denying a child to be who they are.
In 2015 their 24-year-old son took his own life after his biological father disowned him for coming out.
“I don’t wish that on any family anywhere, so I really hope people take a second look at what they’re doing and the damage they’re doing to their children by these kinds of reactions just for being gay,” Prentice said.
Respondents also indicated a strong need for belonging and safe spaces to meet in Quesnel. In addition, respondents of all ages identified affordable counselling as a big issue.
The society, according to Prentice, is planning to provide outings at Troll Ski Resort and with Island Mountain Arts in Wells. In addition, the society started a trial program at the end of 2021 for affordable counselling for LGBTQ+ youth that they hope to make available for all ages.
Prentice believes creating more awareness will be a critical solution for change.
“I think for the most part there is acceptance in Quesnel, but like anywhere, we have a vocal minority that really attacks other people, and we need to make people aware that this is going on,” Prentice added.
“It’s not all roses in Quesnel—it’s an underlying atmosphere of racism and homophobia that, particularly in the schools it seems, is almost rampant and needs to be addressed.”
This year, the Quesnel Pride Parade theme is “We are NOT Invisible.”
While pride parades are typically viewed as a celebration of how far the LGBTQ+ community has come and their resilience, Prentice noted that they had started as a protest in which they still remain as such in many places around the world for LGBTQ+ members who continue to be bullied, oppressed, beaten, jailed and even murdered.
“It’s a protest for those even here in this town who feel they have to remain invisible to feel safe,” Prentice said.
“And so we’re saying we are not invisible, and we will be visible for you until you feel safe to do so. That’s why it was specifically worded that way as not just a celebration, but also as a protest still about the hardships and the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces.”
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