The History of Pride
Nancy Tatham writes:
When was the first Kingston Pride?
The first Pride “stroll” was in 1989. About 12 or so of us met in the parking lot behind City Hall on a hot, sunny June Saturday. We were men, women, queer, straight, 20-somethings to 40- somethings, Activists and Supporters. (If I were any sort of an historian I would have jotted down all the names at the time; however, I can remember enough names today to know the demographics of that day’s group!) We had one banner reading “Lesbian and Gay Pride Kingston”. About 9 of us—a representative sampling of the original 12—finally girded our loins and headed out to Princess Street where we walked up the sidewalk for a few blocks of stunned silence from onlookers and then turned around and headed back down Princess to King. We were dressed in regular summer garb, had no whistles or chants, etc. The message on the banner was traffic-stopping enough that we needed no help drawing attention to ourselves and, frankly, it wasn’t a Celebratory Parade…it was a nerve-racking, proud, defiant claiming of space. And then I imagine—but no longer recall—we escaped somewhere to collapse and have a beer.
When did the City of Kingston first issue a Pride Proclamation?
The little clouds of memory suggest that it was the spring of 1995 that four of us met Mayor Helen Cooper in her office to ask that she “simply” proclaim Pride Day rather than refer the request (as would be the mayor’s right) to council….knowing full well that for the issue to be aired in council would also air plenty of homophobia. Meanwhile, after girding our loins in a booth at Stuart’s Deli and plotting our strategy (Joanne Page, Margaret Hughes, Pam Havery and I) we found ourselves in Helen’s City Hall office, having pitched our request that she proclaim the day, and were taken aback (okay, I know I was taken aback!! In fact, I remember a moment of stunned silence from the four of us) when Helen said matter-of-factly, “Yes, I’II do that.” As she said to us at the time, “The banner went up across Princess Street last year and I held my breath…and the next day the sun came out and we carried on!”
(Helen had received a LOT of flak years earlier when, as an alderman – yes, that was the term – she alone had supported a proclamation. The issue brewed on and off for years in council and in the letters & editorial pages of the Whig, etc.)
Are my years off? If not, I believe it was the fall of ’94, when she was running for re-election as mayor, that she was interviewed by Anne Kershaw in the Whig. Helen spoke at length about why she would vote in favour of Pride Day, citing the insights/encouragement of her then teenaged(?) daughters to do so and, significantly, having homophobia underscored when she overheard in the City Park a father counselling his son in the ways of gay bashing.
Helen was not available to read aloud the first proclamation from the steps of City Hall. Councillor Pam Havery fulfilled that duty. The next year it was Helen herself. I was sweating in a “found” prom dress of pink sateen (yes, sateen) and tulle and having a great time, even though I was becoming aware that my body heat was reactivating the dress’ previous owner’s B.0. (a lesson to those of you who might think to don gay apparel discarded by Queen’s Musical Theatre), wondering if Helen’s choice of lavender outfit was intentional. I would like to think that it was.
Pride gives us the opportunity to be willingly visible in our community; to show the world our diversity; to give thanks to those before us who have campaigned for our rights, and to give voice to our ongoing quest for equality.
Kingston, like any other city, has a significant Gay population. We work in all sorts of organisations; in Businesses, our Schools, Colleges and Universities, our Hospitals, our Prisons, the Police service, the Military and, of course, the City of Kingston. Despite recent legislation many *LGBTTIQQ2SA people in Kingston live in fear of discrimination and prejudice. Kingston Pride is our opportunity to confront that fear, to gather as a community and to be out and proud to ourselves, and to those around us. We really are everywhere.
* Including, but not limited to: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2 Spirited, Allies