The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous “given the hostile and misinformed state of comments on this matter on Facebook.”
1.) The RCMP and 2 divisions of the RNC were confirmed to participate in this year’s Pride Parade.
2.) St. John’s Pride requested — and as they emphasize, requested, not demanded — that if RNC could attend not in uniform, that would be great. They suggested police officers could represent their unit in other ways, such as wearing T-shirts or carrying banners. Though it wasn’t made readily clear initially, the intention was to create an air of peace, since police uniforms can create a tense atmosphere. Or, it was because officers showing up in plain clothes would be them attending moreso “as off-duty, community allies.” Part of the issue was the lack of clarity in the request.
3.) As modern media is increasingly inclined to do, stories emerged to amp up the “controversial nature” of the request. Pieces from various local media implied St. John’s Pride did not want uniformed RNC, or even police in general marching with them. Some argue the articles also made the RNC’s response seem offended. In a world where 60% of us only read headlines, it’s understandable of things snowballed.
4.) The reality is, the RNC were very compliant and respectful of the request. RNC’s Deputy Chief is on record saying there was no damage to relations with St. John’s Pride over the issue, and that the RNC respected “heightened sensitivities” in the wake of recent incidents in Orlando, Toronto, etc. As St. John’s Pride Co-Chair of Finance and Sponsorship Kimberly Drisdelle has said, “I think it’s insulting that we’re more focused on this [controversy] than on the events.”
5.) Instead of this week’s pride bringing people together, the community has been divided. Naturally people are entitled to their opinions, but all agree it’s a shame a week of unity turned into a week of division, in part via sensationalistic media coverage. As board member TJ Jones has said, “We requested a reduced uniformed presence, as opposed to police presence, that was it.”
6.) The debate largely became about inclusion. Is Pride a time for all, or for the LGBTQ community to come together? There is exclusion involved in that debate, which leaves both sides upset with who is and isn’t being included.
7.) Many people turned on St. John’s Pride over the request. For example, Noah Davis-Power, a former president of St. John’s Pride, has been outspoken that it’s a step backward, since the RNC has been an ally of the LGBTQ for so long. “Both financially and morally.” A gay Constable wrote an open letter to CBC explaining,”I wish I had known that gay police officers existed when I was younger. Seeing that a gay individual could have the career they wanted, while living their life openly, would have been life changing for me.”
Jennifer McCreath is burning flags and crying out for people to not attend St. John’s Pride events, because of purported damage the request did
8.) A large part of the divide, nationally, on Pride Weeks became: to get political or not. Should Pride Week be used as a celebration of diversity and unity, or as a podium to demand change and counter oppression and discrimination. (Studies have proven that 70% of their subjects heard homophobic comments every day, so, the latter of the two camps have cause for wanting Pride Week to be political. It is in no way an equal world for the LGBTQ community.)
9.) Brittany Lennox is MUN’s student union executive director of external affairs, communications, and research. This week she gave a speech about the need for Pride to get back on track with being political, since the LGBTQ community is itself a marginalized community with subgroups like black and indigenous people, who in particular need to be heard and respected right now.
In summary …
Who and what is Pride Week for? That’s what has bubbled to the surface here. Instead of throwing stones at the less-than-10 person VOLUNTEER board, why not join it or volunteer next year, instead of blaming them for issues much bigger than a one-week event or parade. And to straight folk allies, please do as Chad at The Overcast did here, and reach out to a queer pal and let us handle this new debate — it’s ours to sort out. We’re glad the straight people want to support Pride Week, and share their opinions online or as journalists, but, the LGBTQ community is at a crux right now as to what Pride is, and that’s our conversation to weigh in on.