'This is why Minden Pride is needed’
Organizers reaffirm purpose behind LGBTQ+ celebration
By Chad Ingram
While the kickoff to this year’s Minden Pride was a jubilant celebration, it also came with an unfortunate reminder of why the event is held in the first place.
The Minden Hills municipal building was festooned with rainbows, its parking lot packed with people, the songs of Queen drifting through the air as the rainbow flag was raised to mark the start of the fourth annual Minden Pride on the morning of Monday, Aug. 19.
Throngs of people, many decked out in bright colours or waving flags of their own, gathered to hear speeches from Minden Pride organizers.
Minden Pride chairman David Rankin welcomed and thanked attendees, recognizing event co-founders Bob Baynton-Smith and Sinclair Russell, “who, a few years ago, answered a senseless act of homophobic vandalism with a very positive community response and created Minden Pride.”
“Minden Pride could not exist without the tremendous support of donors and our sponsors,” Rankin continued. “This financial and in-kind aid allows us to stage a fabulous, weeklong program of events.” He also thanked the event’s volunteer organizers.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, an uprising by the LGBTQ+ community against the New York Police Department in retaliation for years of raids on gay bars. The riots are considered to have essentially given birth to the gay rights movement in North America.
“This is why Minden Pride is needed,” Rankin said, recalling the discrimination that was faced by homosexuals at the time. “Becoming frustrated by being legally restricted from drinking alcohol when wearing non-gender-conforming attire, and from dancing with same-sex partners, patrons of the Stonewall Inn began a movement of resistance, following a police raid in the early morning hours of June 28. Although many protests had happened prior to Stonewall, these riots, which lasted six nights, are largely seen as the beginning of the gay rights movement.”
Rankin noted their timing at the end of June is the reason why many Pride events take place around that time of year.
“But Pride is ongoing,” he said, “and many communities celebrate at different times throughout the year.”
Ottawa Pride is also taking place this week.
Also in 1969, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed by the Canadian government.
“This omnibus bill formed the legal foundations for the Canadian gay rights movement, and the beginning of equality in Canada for the queer community. This amendment effectively decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults over the age of 21. While this was a major change from the then-recent incarceration of men who were gay, it still did not create equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Even to this day, the criminal code is not equal for people who engage in same-sex expressions of love. We still have to work to do. This is why Minden Pride is needed.”
Rankin noted that this year, just days prior to the start of the event, someone cut a Minden Pride banner off the Loggers’ Crossing footbridge.
“We do not why this occurred, nor the motive behind it,” Rankin said. “What we do know, is that following the sharing of this information, more than 12,000 people and counting have read about this online, and hundreds have sent written support for Minden Pride. A very small, but nonetheless concerning group of people, have chosen to send messages expressing their ignorance and bigotry. This is why we need Minden Pride.”
“Today and this week, Minden, we come together as an inclusive and diverse community, to celebrate who we are and to show that we are proud of ourselves, our friends, and our family members,” Rankin said.
Minden Hills Councillor Jennifer Hughey brought a message of inclusiveness on behalf of the township.
Hughey quoted Russell from a 2017 Minden Times story. In that story, Russell said, “It’s not really all that much about being gay. It’s about being inclusive to everybody. We don’t expect the world to turn gay, we just want everybody to be accepted.”
“And I think that’s what all of us here want, am I right?” Hughey said to a round of applause.
Hughey thanked Minden Pride organizers, and referencing the situation with the banner, said, “We rally around ourselves. We are a very caring community and I think that’s something we should all be proud of. Certainly, I think we’re just looking for the practice of including people who might otherwise be excluded, or marginalized, and working hard as a group, as a township, as a county, and world . . . to promote inclusion. I think this community does a really good job at doing that, and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
Russell gave a talk about the significance of the colours on the Pride flag, and The Minden Pride Players, directed by Daniel Manley, provided a musical backdrop that included renditions of songs by Queen, the Village People, and Respect, the Otis Redding song made famous by Aretha Franklin.
Jerelyn Craden, accompanied by guitarist Rob Muir, sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow as the Pride flag was raised outside the township office.