To the editor:
While attending the recent Pride March in Kelowna, I noticed the carefree festive atmosphere, commercial element, and lots of media coverage.
This was in stark contrast to the very first Gay Pride march that I joined many years ago in this city.
I can’t remember the exact year, but it was before many of the younger participants present today were even born.
This year’s march to City Park had a you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby feel to it.
At the park, Wilbur Turner, president of Okanagan Pride Society and co-chair of the Pride Festival, said this year’s numbers overwhelmed him.
There was no shortage of politicians jumping on the GLBT & Q bandwagon.
Calling Pride Week a “celebration of diversity,” Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray read the 2013 Pride Week proclamation and told the crowd, there’s support at city hall for what you’re doing.
While I was listening to all the praises and absorbing the jubilant atmosphere, I was reflecting back to my first Gay Pride march experience.
As people gathered at Kerry Park, there was a somber feeling in the air, as rumours floated around the city that bikers and rednecks were going to disrupt the march.
Kelowna was still a very conservative and largely homophobic city.
The media were keeping a low profile, and there wasn’t a politician from city hall to be seen anywhere.
We marched to the park holding up our posters and weren’t beaten up.
(Then Vancouver-area NDP MP) Sven Robinson, the first Canadian politician to come out, joined the parade.
I walked with a group from the Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna, who supports gender equality.
Despite the lack of support from the community, there was a festive, empowering feeling among the participants as we enjoyed food and entertainment in the park.
I was also invited to the first legal same sex marriage in Kelowna, which took place at the Unitarian Church.
There was a congratulatory letter sent from the prime minister of the day. (No, not Stephen Harper.)
As Turner told the crowd, we’re a family because we are connected by a struggle that has gone on for years for equality. We just want to be treated like everybody else—equally.
Like I mentioned, we’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to be done before a radically inclusive community is created.
I am already starting the next movement called the Fem-Man-ist movement.
Join the revolution.
Hajime (Harold) Naka,