Okanagan pride events resonate with the community
When Wilbur Turner addressed the gathering at the Okanagan Pride Interfaith Spiritual Event Sunday, he wasn't in typical churchgoing attire.
He spoke from the pulpit in a striking purple dress as his drag-queen alter-ego Oddree Mayormaynot.
"We've never had the church involved with pride celebrations before," said Turner, who's co-chair of the organizing committee.
And rarely, if ever, has there been a drag queen addressing a local congregation, but times have changed and that was exactly what Oddree got up there to speak about.
"Oddree relayed some experiences of what it's been like being a gay man coming out as part of a congregation," he said.
As a member of a conservative Calgary based church in the '90s, Turner was ostracized when he announced his sexual orientation.
"I was asked not to sit near children and to take the sacrament last, so I didn't give anyone germs," he said.
Ultimately he ended up leaving the church and lost his faith until it dawned on him that it was ignorance, not the church, that caused the bigotry he experienced.
And he's not alone. Education has changed the way many churches deal with their gay parishioners and that's prompting some to return to their religious roots.
"Now people are starting to see we don't need lesbian-bi-gay-transgendered churches," he said. "We can be part of mainstream faith. It's great now to see so many organizations embracing diversity."
Turner's also hoping Oddree—who just came into being in the last year— will further bridge the gap between Kelowna's straight and LBGT community, and if her turn speaking to the church was any indication she's making strides in the right direction.
"So many people came up and thanked me for sharing my story and making it personal," he said.
That, he said, is kind of the point of pride events.
"There is a party element, but it's about celebrating diversity and helping people realize you can be gay and have a great life as part of the community," said Turner.
Fittingly, the community has really embraced this year's events.
The eight day celebration started Friday night, and there has been events every night since. The party won't end until Saturday, amounting to eight days of festivities.
"It's been great to see all these folks out," said Turner.
"We're lining up for an awesome week."
Everything from flashmobs to concerts and drag queen contests will roll out in the week ahead.
For the full listing of events go to the Gay Okanagan website.