Pride Month will be a celebration of firsts in Perth County

A record number of Pride Month celebrations planned for Perth County this year is a sign of progress, advocates say.

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A record number of Pride Month celebrations planned for Perth County this year is a sign of progress, advocates say.

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They are also “long overdue,” said Bruce Duncan Skeaff, president of the new Stratford Pride Community Centre.

“There are a lot of LGBT people living here and visiting here, but there has been no community.”

It seems that is starting to change.

A group of volunteers launched the online community hub last summer to fill a need for resources for members of the LGBTQ+ community living in and visiting Stratford. Less than a year later, they are planning an event celebrating the grand opening of their first brick-and-mortar location on Downie Street.

“(It’s) a bit surreal that it happened so quickly,” Skeaff said.

The 92 square meter (1,000 square foot) space on the second floor of 24 Downie St. includes a central resource center, space for meetings and events, and a lending library with books dedicated to the topics and authors LGBTQ+.

To mark the occasion with the group, Felice Picano, a prominent writer, editor and critic known for advancing gay literature in the United States. Picano will be at the open house on June 4 to sign copies of his key novel, Justify My Sins: A Hollywood Novel In Three Acts. On June 5, Picano will appear on stage at the new Tom Patterson Theater at 8 p.m. for an evening of stories and anecdotes about his 50-year career, part of a weekend of Pride events. in Stratford.

“Picano is one of those very rare specimens; a brilliant and diverse writer and personality whose fascinating life and work spanned two centuries, while surviving the AIDS epidemic that wiped out much of his generation,” said Canadian playwright and author Brad Fraser in a press release. “His expertise spans many disciplines, many styles and many genres. Hearing him speak is an opportunity no one should miss.

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The Perth County Pride March begins in Stratford on June 5 at 1 p.m., moving from the Tom Patterson Theater to Upper Queen’s Park. An afternoon concert by the River Avon is also in the works.

Elsewhere in the region, North Perth will fly a rainbow flag at its municipal offices in Listowel for the first time next month. Stratford-Perth Pride was able to apply after incorporating as a non-profit in April, a necessary step to comply with the municipality’s flag-waving policy.

“Even though a flag is just a piece of cloth, for many of us a Pride flag is an acknowledgment of our ability to love whoever will, identify with who we are, and live our lives as authentic way,” said Stratford-Perth Pride Chairman AJ. said Adams.

North Perth Pride, an advocacy group launched last year, also welcomed the decision.

“Raising the Pride Flag is a wonderful way to kick off Pride Month, not just in North Perth, but across Perth County,” said co-founder Hollie Chavarria.

More than one flag is hoisted at St. Marys. A series of downtown banners representing a variety of marginalized groups are already in place, another first for Perth County.

Robin Awcock, a St. Marys resident and Stratford-Perth Pride board member, first spotted them on Friday.

“They look wonderful,” she said. “It makes me a little emotional, actually. If it causes the community to ask questions about what each flag means…for that particular group, it’s done its job. It makes the town feel more welcoming when you can see they’ve taken that step.

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The Pride Flag will also be flown at St. Marys Town Hall during the month of June. A ceremony on June 1 will feature Mayor Al Strathdee, members of Stratford-Perth Pride and a Grade 7 class from St. Marys District Collegiate and Vocational Institute who created a series of posters to complement the new banners of the town.

On June 12, Awcock and other members of the St. Marys community planned St. Marys Pride Day, a new family-friendly community event that includes a variety of activities, food vendors and local artisans.

A resident of St. Marys for nearly 25 years, Awcock said she can’t remember a time when Pride Month received so much attention in Perth County.

“It just shows the growth of our small towns,” she said. “It’s something you’ve never seen in town before. All the steps that show that our city is welcoming… are a big step.

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