The rainbow flag was first designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker in San Francisco and since then has become the universal symbol for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
This week in Summerside and throughout P.E.I. people are going to waving this flag to show their support for the Pride community. And for Summerside, this is the first Pride Week to herald in the new chapter.
“Really, it’s meeting the ends of the community, and when we talk about the Pride community, that includes straight people, too,” said Nancy Beth Guptill, the Summerside Pride chapter President and Events Coordinator. Guptill is also the chair of Include Summerside, which focuses on promoting diversity in the community.
The idea to have a separate Pride P.E.I. chapter in Summerside and their own celebrations was first pitched by Guptill a year ago. A number of people had reached out to her and asked about having events in the Western part of the Island.
“The inbox messages I received were just people looking to come together to socialize and to spend time with like-minded people who wanted to celebrate inclusion and to be in a space where they could be who they are.”
As Guptill mentioned, these events are not just for people in the LGBTQ2S+ community, but for supporters as well. She said there needs to be a more visible and prouder presence in the Western part of P.E.I. and having these events open to everyone is a great way to do that.
Pride Week in Summerside starts Saturday, July 21 at the Pride by the Sea Patio Dance Party at Uncle Mike’s Patio. This means dancing on the waterfront to the DJ stylings of Tommy Biggar. The next day is the Pride Church service at Summerside Presbyterian Church.
For a trip out of Summerside (and to a great local brewery) you can have a drag of beer and enjoy your drag, too, with Drag Queen Trivia with Whatshername at Moth Lane Brewing. Monday is also when participating communities will be raising their Pride Flags.
Throughout the week there is also a Pride Kitchen Party on Wednesday and, finally, the Pride After Dark karaoke retro 80s dance party (and that is a mouthful of a name), hosted by Maureen Pendergast, takes place on Friday.
On Saturday, July 28 everyone in the Pride community is meeting in Charlottetown for the big parade beginning at 1 p.m. and will end with Pride in the Park, as well as the night time Pride dance.
When Guptill and the rest of the team first launched the Summerside chapter, there was an overwhelmingly positive response from people that spoke of a need for events like these.
“It was pretty amazing to hear the comments being made,” said Guptill. “We have comments about being moved and that it is long overdue. And this is coming from everyone and every background, with different cultures and faiths.”
There have been, of course, some people who haven’t been as positive about this chapter and the upcoming week’s events, and for Pride P.E.I., that’s ok.
The hope is that by having more celebrations across the Island, it will lead to more discussions and, eventually, more acceptance of people who identify with the LGBTQ2S+ community.
This year the city of Summerside also painted a rainbow flag right in front of city hall.
“I have just found people are being more open," Guptill said. "It’s just igniting a change and movement for people being more open and wanting to have this happen more.”
The first rainbow flag was waved exactly 40 years old when Pride parades were new. At the time, they were more politically-focused to advocate for LGBTQ2S+ rights when identifying with that community often meant ostracization from society and even danger to your well-being.
Currently, Pride events have become more of a celebration of the community, but there’s still change that needs to and can be made. This is why Pride events still exist.
So, even if you don’t identify with the Pride community, wave that flag, honey. You’re more than welcome to the party.
Julia Cook is an entertainment columnist for The Guardian. She can be reached at Julia.Cook@theguardian.pe.ca.