Pride weekend: Kelowna councillor advocates for Pride flag, better communication for all marginalized groups - InfoNews

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Pride weekend: Kelowna councillor advocates for Pride flag, better communication for all marginalized groups

It's Okanagan Pride Weekend in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Okanagan Pride Society
June 21, 2019 - 5:01 PM

KELOWNA - When Kelowna Coun. Loyal Wooldridge first came out, he and his friends in the Okanagan’s burgeoning LGBTQ community would wear “little rainbow patches on their waistlines.”

It was a tiny and bright sign of pride in a time when the political and social climate was not open to accepting, let alone celebrating, sexual diversity.

Those were the days that mayor Walter Gray infamously refused to sign a proclamation for gay and lesbian pride day, choosing instead to call it gay and lesbian day.

Things have improved.

Kelowna has rainbow crosswalks, a mayor who has gone out of his way to demonstrate inclusive behaviour and a strong LGBTQ community who, this weekend,  will celebrate pride events alongside their friends and family. Even Gray changed his view.

“It’s definitely elevated quite far since 1997, but reconciliation isn’t just one act, one event, or painting one crosswalk,” said Wooldridge. “It’s about changing behaviours and having a continual conversation about what else are we as a community going to do to be inclusive.”

On Monday, June 17, that conversation heated up when Wooldridge suggested flying a pride flag at city hall for pride week. Council didn’t say no, but the idea wasn’t immediately embraced in large part because of the tide of requests it may have made way for.

That, said Wooldridge, is understandable.

But he's not going to stop talking about things that will make this community more inclusive.

“When I was growing up here in West Kelowna, I was bullied a lot in high school and I had a lot of anxiety and mental health challenges because of my sexuality,” he said. “I decided if I had a chance advocate for people who felt less than or silenced I would. I remember that feeling.”

He also knows that not everyone embraces his sexuality and was told as much during the election.

"There's an undertone still there...  it’s OK to be gay, but don’t be too loud about it," he said.

Being in a position of influence girds him from some of that, but he knows it's not as easy for others, which being an advocate is so important.

“So much of what happens comes from what leaders think, not what people think,” he said.

“This (Monday meeting) was a trigger to move that conversation forward and ask minority groups what we can do to make things better.”

Wooldridge isn't focusing his efforts on people just in the LGBTQ community.

“It’s also about advocating for Indigenous people and people who haven’t been given a voice at the table,” he said. 

City staff has said they are going to work on a strategy to integrated the marginalized voices in conversations had at higher levels.

It’s a start that Wooldridge feels good about.

PRIDE WEEKEND EVENTS

June is internationally recognized Pride Month. The Okanagan Pride Society has a whole series of weekend events.

Pride Official Events: 

• June 21: The 8th Annual Kelowna's Next Drag Superstar
• June 22: 2019 Kelowna Pride March & Festival
• June 22: Fruitcake: PRIDE

Pride Affiliate Events:

• June 22: Okanagan Roller Derby: Ru-Palverisers VS Ellen Degenerates
• June 22: Pride Cruise - MOIST
• June 23: Empower LGBTQ2+ Movement Series

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/kelownapride.


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