Pride grows across P.E.I.

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PEI Gay Tourism Association

Pride 2014 celebrates all genders, sexual orientations with expanding week of activities

Pride 2014 has kicked off in Prince Edward Island with a celebration of life church service Sunday and rainbow flags ready to be unfurled across the province today.

Such outward displays of being “here and queer” have not always been welcome in our gentle Island, but at least one gay-friendly tourism operator says P.E.I. is making progress on that front.

Vicki Francis runs the Cranford Inn and sits on the P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association. She spoke to The Guardian for a story that will appear later this week.

Ms. Francis says the Island has come a long way in recent years and that even as recently as 10 years ago, P.E.I. wouldn’t even have considered such an association as the one she represents was necessary. Now the province’s Department of Tourism has integrated LGBT-friendly material in its visitors’ guide and establishments like Francis’ have invited representatives from Travel Gay Canada to give employees pointers. For instance, don’t assume two women travelling together want separate beds.

The tourism industry isn’t the only area where the Island has seen growth in the acceptance and celebration of the diversity of our residents and visitors.

The University of P.E.I. made the news earlier this year when it converted some of its washroom facilities to gender-neutral bathrooms after the student union made the request for safer facilities for students who didn’t identify as traditional males and females.

Charlottetown has its first openly gay candidate running for city council after Tyler Murnaghan threw his hat into the November election.

And the list of Pride week activities continues to expand, with this year’s offerings including a youth dance and a rainbow gala. Since its inception in the not-that-distant past of Aug. 15-20, 2000, the week has grown from a rally at Confederation Landing Park that invited jeers from intolerant passersby; to a small-but-brave contingent who walked in a meagre parade through an even greater volley of slurs in the mid-2000s; to the week-long schedule of events earning corporate sponsorship that Pride 2014 will offer this week. You know you’re no longer on the fringes of society when your event is sponsored by the likes of BMO and the Superstore.

All of these examples and more point to a more tolerant and welcoming society in P.E.I. But there is still more work to be done to educate everyone about the need for inclusiveness.

A gay slur was used in a message to a teen girl on Ask.fm featured in a front-page Guardian story just last week. And similar messages of hate are not that hard to find on message boards, social media sites or in conversations overheard in crowds. Witness a same-sex couple smooching on the dance floor of almost any Charlottetown bar and see if there aren’t more raised eyebrows and mutters of disgust than if an opposite-sex couple behaves in the same manner.

Even the example of progress given earlier in this editorial of UPEI’s gender-neutral bathrooms drew criticism in The Guardian’s comments section of the story, where ignorant writers glibly told students they need only grab what’s in their pants to see which washroom they should use. And other, similarly appalling statements. One just hopes people with those views are now in the minority.

Who somebody loves — or where that person feels comfortable relieving themselves — is nobody else’s business. Making sure every Islander and visitor feels safe doing so, is everybody’s business.

Happy Pride 2014.

Organizations: Cranford Inn, P.E.I. Gay Tourism Association, Department of Tourism University of P.E.I.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Confederation Landing Park

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