by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
This June has been a successful Pride Month for Kemptville Pride.
Though events were distanced this year, and no Pride parade took place, Kemptville Pride looks forward to in-person events next June, as well as implementing some much needed year-round support services for the local LGBTQ2S+ community.
Director of Communication Fiona McKenney told me playfully, “The support in June is great, but don’t forget that gay people exist the rest of the year too!”
Kemptville Pride is a non-profit organization that was established in 2019 to support LGBTQ2S+ people, as well as plan, fund, and organize Pride activities in the Kemptville area.
This year, Kemptville Pride mostly organized over social media. The theme for this year was “show your rural pride.” The team at Kemptville Pride posted videos to make rural LGBTQ2S+ folks more visible, informational videos, and encouraged others to post under the #showyourruralpride on TikTok.
Each Friday, the team shared “Education Fun Friday” posts on Facebook. These posts included colouring sheets and informative packets designed for the whole family. For example, the June 18 Family Fun Friday featured Marsha P. Johnson, a black transwoman who championed LGBTQ rights at the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Each Monday, Kemptville Pride shared a “Pride Picks” list of LGBTQ+ films, TV series, and books. Kemptville Pride also organized home and business decorating contests for the month.
Kemptville Pride kicked off the month with a pause of events in solidarity with the Indigenous community. Though June is Pride Month, it is also National Indigenous History Month.
Fiona told me, “because pride is so loud and proud and in your face, we didn’t want to take any more space away from Indigenous communities. They already lost so much, they are already fighting for so much.”
This year, observing Indigenous History Month felt even more grave after the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School. Kemptville Pride paused for 215 hours to “honour the children’s lives that were lost.” Fiona also noted that the pause was offered with respect to “Two-Spirit” (the 2S in the LGBTQ2S+ acronym) members of the queer community. Two-Spirit is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous peoples of North America to recognize people who have both a masculine and a feminine spirit. Fiona says that, “there is so much that two-spirit people offer the community as a whole.”
When establishing the events to take place, Fiona explained, “No one really wants to do anything virtually this year.” Kemptville Pride, like many organizations, has noticed that people’s enthusiasm for Zoom events has worn off. But in the place of in person activities, “the local businesses really jumped in.”
More than 30 local businesses and services have stepped up offering special pride products, fundraisers, or safe spaces in support of Kemptville Pride. Fiona noted that Smiling Moon, a Kemptville based gift shop, made a Pride necklace that, “sold out in like 37 minutes.” All of the money, not just proceeds, from these necklaces were donated to Kemptville Pride.
This money is going directly back into the community, in hiring their Executive Director Jen Crawford, and two students for the summer.
At the top of paid staff’s priority list is an environmental scan to find out what local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community really need. Fiona says, “It’s easy for people looking from the outside to tell you what you need. But it’s only the people who are actually living it every day that can really say.” Fiona suspects, from her long term engagement with the community, that the results of this scan will point toward the need for workshops for workplaces and schools and for support networks.
Fiona says that, “education is key” to Kemptville Pride. Though there are always some that believe education is indoctrination, Fiona notes that if indoctrination were how young people acquired their sexualities, everyone would be straight. “How do you groom people to be gay? We grow up in straight areas, but somehow we still grow up gay!”
Until a full spectrum of human experience is recognized as normal, education will remain necessary.
Support networks are also a common need. Not only for LGBTQ2S+ individuals, but for their families as well.
Fiona notes that even for accepting parents, adjusting to the changes in children who are LGBTQ2S+ can be a, “lonely road to travel.” She says, “We need a club for parents whose children are off the gender spectrum or exploring their sexuality that can sit and talk, or share what has worked for them.”
It is supporting needs like this that the “Executive Director is in the process of doing. To find out what we need, get the funding for it, and set up something full term, so that Kemptville Pride isn’t just something in June every year where we do a bunch of activities and have a parade. It would be 365 days a year, you can reach out to somebody on the pride committee, and we will get you what you need.”
For more information about Kemptville Pride visit www.kemptvillepride.com