The pride flag is a well-known symbol of solidarity for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community, so why isn’t it flying at buildings of all levels of Canadian government throughout entire year?
Saskatoon city council voted in favour of raising the pride flag at City Hall on Feb. 10 in response to anti-gay laws in Russia, which happens to be the host country of this year’s Winter Olympics. Saskatoon followed other cities in Canada who were also making this symbolic gesture.
That said, the notion to raise the pride flag in Saskatoon is only due to Russia’s stance on LGBTQ issues. While this is a positive move, it sparks other questions for inquiry.
Why is it that LGBTQ issues primarily only come to the forefront of the news when they appear in a negative context?
Pride Week takes place once a year in many major centres across the globe and arguably is the only permissible time that gay pride gets to be highlighted as something positive in many communities.
The rest of the year it seems that LGBTQ communities are more likely to be defending their rights, regardless of what the circumstances might be. As a result, the pride flags tend to fly only when oppression is in the air.
Even on our own University of Saskatchewan campus, Huskies men’s hockey coach Dave Adolph voluntarily outed himself as someone who used gay slang in an email. While I appreciate that Adolph dealt with his mistake honorably, the issue of using gay slang was only illuminated because of something negative that had happened.
Perhaps it takes these kinds of mistakes to create positive changes in any situation and context, but I refuse to accept the idea that something bad has to happen in order for us all to learn and change constructively. Good results can come from good circumstances too.
I’d rather live in a world that celebrates gay pride 365 days of the year because being a part of the LGBTQ community is something awesome. Being gay is an honour and don’t you forget it.
I don’t want to see the City of Saskatoon or our Canadian government raise their pride flags only when defending gay rights becomes an issue. We are better than that. We are prouder than that.
Keeping the pride flag raised at every level of Canadian government all year would demonstrate that we as Canadians are proud of our LGBTQ communities, in good times and in times of turmoil. We’re not just proud when we need to be; we’re proud all the time.
After all, Canada is a leader in many regards the world over. Perhaps if we show our gay pride throughout the year, other countries will follow suit. How wonderful would it be for tourists of Canada to visit cities with pride flags flying high? Imagine what kind of message that would send.
And really, it is just a flag. But it’s a flag that symbolizes the rights of those who are often identified as “different,” seeing as how members of LGBTQ communities fall outside the hegemonic ideal of having a heterosexual sexual orientation. If you don’t think it’s necessary for pride flags to fly at all times, maybe reevaluate how homophobic many people still are.
In fact, it’s ironic that pride flags have gone up all over the country because of apparent homophobia is Russia, when I’m sure homophobia exists in our own city.
Of course it’s important that Canada take a stand against a Russian government that doesn’t support LGBTQ rights, but it’s also important for Canada to continuously support it’s own LGBTQ community throughout the whole year.
Mayor Don Atchison argues that Saskatoon has an “open and embracing and inclusive community,” according to an interview in the StarPhoenix, but where has Mayor Atchison been at all of Saskatoon’s Pride Week festivities since he’s been mayor? One more reason to keep the pride flag flying high — it might add some color to the view from Mayor Atchison’s office.
While Canada supports its LGBTQ community on paper — legalizing gay marriage in 2005 — what appears on paper isn’t always what’s executed in practice. At least as Canadians we have the laws in place to protect us all.
If our own elected mayor doesn’t attend the one pride parade per year, I’d think that there are others within our “inclusive” community of Saskatoon that have similar attitudes. Even if Atchison is positive toward the LGBTQ community, his inaction sends a message that is more often than not interpreted negatively.
While leading a parade full of rainbow flags, drag queens and condom-filled treat bags might not be for everyone, I’d hope that someone in a leadership position like Mayor Don would at least come and watch the event take place.
So yes, I think it’s amazing that as a country and city we are showing our own protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws by raising our pride flag at city hall. But I also believe we should keep our pride flags flying to show our continuous support for our own LGBTQ community.
Graphic: Rhea Lonsdale