Finding PRIDE

pride_flag_concrete_beach.pngWritten by: Kitt Kong
Photo by: Student Experience Communications

The month of June is known as Pride Month, a time when 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals are empowered to reclaim their rights and freedoms while sharing their pride in their unique identities.

Within contemporary Canadian culture, Pride is frequently celebrated in a variety of ways, but it endured a difficult challenge to get to where it is today. After decriminalization in 1969, Pride started with the First Gay Liberation Protest and March in 1971. Following, Pride Week was established for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights in 1973 and consisted of many different festivities nationwide. 

Despite the successful advances, it can still be challenging for 2SLGBTQIA+ identifying people to express themselves today. As an ally, it is important to support the community by understanding the struggles and barriers faced by listening to their stories and lived experiences without judgment, but with open ears. 

As only one of many queer-identifying individuals on campus, I cannot speak for everyone, but here is my story and some of my tips to support the Pride community, not just this month, but every day you can. 

During my grade 10 school year, I began to realize that I did not conform to the heteronormative culture like many of my other peers. I felt scared and ashamed, as I wanted to be normal and not made fun of. I was also very unaware of the terminology, ignorant of the difference between gender identity and sexuality but I had decided that anything not heteronormative was not okay to be. 

I tried to suppress my feelings for the longest time. Coming from an immigrant family of color, I always wanted to make my parents proud, and I knew telling them how I felt would make them the opposite of what I wanted them to feel. It was difficult, as gender identity and sexuality are not things I can forcibly change. 

It was also through a professional development workshop at my first job that I connected with an organization called the Students Commission of Canada. It was at that non-profit where I worked as a researcher and facilitator with young people across Canada and learned all about the meaning and nuances of intersectionality and identity. The people I met were super supportive and accepting, and I still cherish my time with the organization as it was a transformative experience for me. 

I realized I had allies. Friends that would support me in my acceptance of who I am, who would listen to me with open ears, and advocate for my needs on my behalf. I met other 2SLGBTQIA+ identifying individuals who were out and sharing their stories, empowering others that they have met. It was through these interactions that I knew I was not alone. Meeting these awe-inspiring people, I was motivated to learn more, especially about identity and Pride. 

In the end, we are all humans, and we all have the capacity to love and care for the people around us. I grew to love listening to the stories and experiences people have shared with me. I listen so much that my friends tell me I have a “bartender’s ear.” I found value in what I learned and found myself through it, and I would love to support others in their journey as well. 

Safe spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities to learn and grow are vital for their health, and it is all our duties to ensure that these spaces are accessible. We can all do our part to reach our goal.  

You may ask, how can I contribute or support the people I care about? Well, that depends on you. Being a supportive ally or advocate can look like many things. For me, I aspire to be an urban planner and architect, to design safe and accessible spaces for individuals from diverse backgrounds. I want to ensure these voices are heard and have a seat at the table. But I did start smaller. I started by being there for someone and listening to their story. 

And for those struggling to find your voice: Share or find ways to express your story because that is what makes you unique. No one can take your experiences away from you. 

Want to get involved?

On Wednesday, July 5th, 2023, Western is hosting an event called Pride – Out at the Beach located right at the heart of campus on Concrete Beach. At this event, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and allies can come together and celebrate with each other, enjoying the arts and entertainment, music, and treats provided.

Other Upcoming Western Pride Events: 

London’s Pride Parade is also scheduled for Sunday, July 23rd, 2023, a fantastic opportunity to honor and celebrate the demanding work of those that came before us. It begins starting from the Western Fair at noon, ending at Victoria Park.

If you need further resources or support, know that there are plenty of 2SLGBTQIA+ supports at Western and within the London community.

Learn more about Pride and allyship!

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