Fredericton – Fredericton’s annual Queer Pride celebrations have always been an exciting time of year for the city’s queer community, but this year the community was particularly proud. In a unanimous vote earlier this year, Fredericton’s City Council allowed the Fredericton Pride 2010 Committee to hold the city’s first Queer Pride Parade on August 8th.
The decision ended years of struggle by the queer community and allies to hold such a parade in the provincial capital because of City Council’s opposition (similar marches have been happening for years in Saint John and Moncton). With over three hundred marchers in attendance, as well as several hundred onlookers lining the parade route, the march was both a celebration of the city’s sexual and political diversity, as well as a way for straight allies to show support and solidarity with queer friends, family, and co-workers.
Led by former NB NDP leader and longtime Fredericton activist, Allison Brewer, the parade had many community groups and organizations marching in its ranks. These groups included: go-go dancers from boom! nightclub (Fredericton’s local alternative lifestyles bar), the Fredericton Peace Coalition, Integrity Canada (a project of the Anglican Church to reach out to the queer community), the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Rainbow Family Network, just to name a few.
Though a historic first for the queer community of Fredericton, pride parades have become a fixture in queer pride celebrations around the world. In fact, this year marks the 40th anniversary of arguably the world’s first major gay pride march. Several smaller marches had occurred in different cities throughout the 20th century, but many see New York City’s 1970 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day parade as the world’s first gay pride parade.
Born out of the anger many were feeling after the Stonewall Riots, American queer activist, Craig Rodwell, proposed taking to the streets in an act of defiance that would be known as Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day. The Stonewall Riots occurred when NYC police officers broke into a popular queer nightspot on Christopher Street, known as the Stonewall Inn, and arrested countless gays and lesbians back in 1969.
By capturing the sound and fury that characterized the wave of queer activism that sprung up in the direct aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, the march acted in stark contrast to the quieter vigils that other queer activists had been proposing at the time. Similar events were held soon after in cities all over North America.
Canada saw its first gay pride march in the city of Ottawa in August 1971. Dubbed “Gay Day”, the march consisted of about 100 queers marching to Parliament Hill with a list of demands known simply as “We Demand”. One of the major demands for the queer activists of the time was an end to workplace discrimination. While homosexuality had become legal in 1969, many queer Canadians still found themselves being fired from their jobs when their sexual orientation was made known to their bosses.
Several other events held throughout this year’s Fredericton’s Pride Week included: a Queer History/Herstory Night, a well-attended Pride edition of boom!’s Thursday Night Karaoke and a “Naked” Art Show, which featured works from local artists hung from half-naked volunteers.
Craig Mazerolle is a student at St. Thomas University.