Happy Pride, Sackville. Today students, faculty and community members alike will be marching in Sackville’s second annual Pride parade, a celebration of identity, experience and resistance for queer* people.
Queerness is not a single, homogenous experience. To get a more diverse picture and provide visibility to the community, Argosy staff interviewed more than 30 LGBTQ+ students on topics of Pride and queerness.
Students were asked, “What does Pride mean to you?”
To Sally Faulkner, who identifies as a pansexual woman, it means “community and the freedom to discover.” Community was an ongoing topic throughout most of the interviews. Students indicated that finding a support network of fellow queer people can be enriching, accepting and even life-saving.
To Cat Bannon, a gay woman, Pride means “a celebration after a period of dulling [her]self for the comfort of others.”
“No one talked about sex being a positive thing or something a woman should enjoy, so when I got peer pressured into having sex and hated it, I just thought it was the normal thing. I thought of math equations when I kissed boys, but the first time I kissed a girl my world exploded,” said Bannon.
Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Sanderson, who identifies as queer and non-binary, said that Pride allows individuals to live honestly and openly. “[Pride is] being able to hold my partner’s hand or express my pronouns and be understood, taken seriously and accepted,” they said.
Queerness is not always easy to embrace initially. Many students indicated mixed feelings about recognizing their queerness. Like many others, Blaire Guptill tried to convince herself for many years that she was straight. Guptill grew up in a small town “deeply rooted in [her Christian] faith,” without a lot of queer visibility. “I fought my queerness and I tried to convince myself for at least three years that I wasn’t gay,” Guptill said.
Pride is not just an annual parade. It is an ongoing project and movement aimed at the inclusion of people who have been marginalized not only by a variety of state and social institutions, but also in many ways by the mainstream Pride movement itself.
According to Aidan Legault, who identifies as a gay man, many people have been, and still are denied their Pride despite the radical origins of the movement.
“It’s important to understand as queer-identifying people where that movement comes from because the first Pride parade was an annual celebration of the Stonewall riots, which were actions carried out by queer and trans women of colour,” he said.
“The fact that a lot of young, queer-identifying people don’t realize [the movement’s origins] is upsetting because then you see Pride events like Toronto where queer and trans people of colour are being systematically denied space,” said Legault, referring to a Black Lives Matter protest at Toronto Pride.
Many interviewees indicated that certain people have been denied access to Pride for their race, nationality, sex, gender identity, class, ability and body type. The corporatization of Pride was mentioned in many interviews as well.
Queerness affects people in drastically different ways based on these and many more identities. Trans people, particularly trans women of colour, face incredibly high rates of murder relative to the general population. It is still a reality that some of the most “diverse” places in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity are prisons. Worldwide, it is still illegal to be queer in 76 countries – in 10 of these countries, homosexual sex is still punishable by death.
Queerness is not a single experience. While Pride is a deeply politicized community celebration, it also needs to be an inclusive space not only for people marginalized by queerness but also for a number of other identities that have been excluded.
*Queer in this context is not a derogatory term but a reclaimed term used to describe sexual orientations and gender identities that do not ascribe to hetero and cisnormativity.