2SLGBTQIA+ Pride in a pandemic

It’s just a pride flag. No one has been outside in nearly two years. Pixabay

Regina’s second year of pandemic Pride paves the way for more accessible future celebrations and initiatives

Even though the pandemic halted many social events, concerts, and exhibits, it couldn’t stop Pride. For the second year in a row, Regina held its modified, COVID-compliant festival. Queen City Pride and UR Pride worked together closely on festival events, so kēr, a program coordinator for UR Pride, spoke to me about how the festival went this year, despite restrictions. When asked about how attendance was at events she attended, kēr was extremely pleased with the turn out. “The numbers were great,” she says – and that may be partially because what a socially distanced Pride lacks in bodily proximity, it makes up for in accessibility.

Many Pride events this year were virtual, distant, or go at your own pace. Queen City Pride’s Digital Pride Guide meant anyone with internet access could find the scoop on the what, when, and where of this year’s events. Not only did this guide include a digital calendar, but it also included tags that indicated key words describing what the event was focused on, any age limits or recommendations, information on access to the online platforms for the event, and admission costs. This feature made finding a suitable event for your interests much easier.

 kēr spoke passionately about the importance of accessibility, and how this year’s virtual Pride removed some of the barriers commonly preventing many people from attending Pride events. “Previously, Pride was exclusionary,” she says, “in that we didn’t have ways for people in areas that don’t have their own Prides to participate.” kēr also mentions some of the groups tend to be left out, noting that at some in-person venues, “we didn’t have disabled people; we didn’t have immunocompromised people,” but that when events go virtual, “we’re able to invite folks who never would have been able to, people from regions and countries that aren’t particularly free.” 

While Pride events obviously hope to reach as many people as possible, the core desire is for them to be accessible to the people who need them most. “Even events that only two people came, that’s still okay,” kēr says. Any attendance is good attendance, because while it is important to get out (or in some cases this year, get online) and connect with the community, it’s equally important to pay homage to what Pride was really about: the fight for the rights of the queer community, and raising awareness of issues they still face.

Despite what the community has to celebrate this year, there are still areas that require progress be made for the safety of those in the queer community. Even the recent news that our parliament passed a bill banning conversion therapy (a torturous practice used to attempt to “convert” people into heterosexuality, incorrectly labelled as “therapy”), a monumental win for the queer community, is hindered by the knowledge that the vote was not unanimous. It passed with a vote of 263 to 63 – with a good amount of those 63 being Saskatchewan’s own Conservative MPs (like Andrew Scheer, for one). Additionally, the bill has now been halted by the Senate to be taken up in September.[1]

Equally close to home is the issue of homelessness among queer youth. In a Facebook post from June 7, Lulu’s Lodge, “a 5-bedroom supportive transitional home for LGBTQ2S+ youth aged 16-21 facing homelessness in Regina,”[2] reports 92.3 per cent occupancy and also notes that they sometimes have a waitlist.[3] Youth often require access to this type of group home because they are at risk of homophobic or transphobic violence from their own families. They are often not safe in other group homes, and as a result are at risk of facing more violence compounded with potential homelessness.

Queen City Pride’s programming seemed to acknowledge the need for such tough work, and alongside fun trivia events, drag shows, and parades, made space for educational events such as online seminars. Seminars such as “Identity and Privilege,” “Diverse Families,” and “Harm Reduction and Sexual Health” were streamed via Zoom. kēr says that “when people think of Pride, I know they think of the parade, and that is a problem,” but what is important to recognize is that “so many communities have so much groundwork happening, and grassroots work happening.”

What kēr seems to really want people to know is that Pride is as diverse as its people. She says there’s something for everyone: organizations and places that host theatrical events, games, picnics, sexual health clinics, and educational outreach. We certainly saw all of that this festival season. “And those things benefit people outside the LGBTQ community,” she emphasized. “It’s a build it and they will come situation.”

Sometimes, there’s so much to do, it’s hard to know where to start. kēr recommends the parade to first timers, “as cliché as that is.” She marvels at “the amount of joy it brings people, y’know?” She admits that “It has lost some of the radicalness it should ideally have, and I hope comes back. But I’m also not complaining that it’s a bit of a family day and kids are just, you know, in all their rainbow gear, and with the flags and whatnot. For a lot of kids, that is the first time they see themselves. Like in real life, out of TV.”

When asked about her hopes for Pride month in the future, kēr speaks very animatedly about the thought of continuing “a hybridized system of Pride moving forward.” She says that “if [healing from the pandemic] happens and we’re able to go out and enjoy outside again, I think we shouldn’t forget the infrastructure we’ve created around virtual things.” kēr exclaims, “Let’s make it virtual! Let’s make it such that someone in, you know, Yugoslavia, can tune into our Pride and enjoy, and see our things. And also,” she adds cheekily, “I too would like to see how they do it in Yugoslavia!

kēr touches on a very important point here: when we celebrate Pride, we celebrate living in a country that has marriage equality and is ever moving towards being safer and more inclusive. When we celebrate Pride, we celebrate those that made safe, socially distant, virtual Pride possible – those who threw the first bricks at Stonewall and decided enough was enough. And most importantly, when we celebrate Pride, we acknowledge there is more work to be done in order for many 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals to be safe and accepted not only in our communities, but in the world.

“Come to as many events as you can,” kēr says, to encourage anyone who is still hesitant. “They will satiate you in ways you never even knew you needed to be. You will learn so many new things, you will gain so many new friends and so many connections. You know, you’re going to eat, you’re going to dance – you’re going to cry, sometimes. Pride can be sad sometimes, and sadness is okay. Because [we’re] recognizing that we’re standing on the backs and the shoulders of so many people who suffered before us.”

[1] Global News, Senate delays bill banning conversion therapy to September. June 30, 2021 2:10 pm https://globalnews.ca/news/7993654/conversion-therapy-ban-bill-delayed/

[2] John Howard Society of Saskatchewan Website: Lulu’s Campaign https://www.sk.johnhoward.ca/luluscampaign/

[3] Lulu’s Lodge Facebook Page, June 7, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/luluslodge/posts/771687356854420


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