It is Pride month, but here in Edmonton the coalition of LGBTQ+ groups is showing signs of strain. They were not able to reach consensus on key matters affecting the parade, so the parade was cancelled. As I understand it, the concerns had to do with police presence and participation, increased commercial and political representation, and the under-recognized experiences of people of colour.
When I think about all the many groups incorporated into the LGBTQ+ community, I’m surprised they manage to get anything agreed upon at all. These organizations include those for black, indigenous, youth, refugee, and military LGBTQ+ people. All of these groups and the Pride Festival Society are run by volunteers, and some had been invited to attend a board meeting. There may have been a miscommunication, however, because they were denied entry, possibly because they had brought a number of supporters with them. Then a board member called the police which caused more upset and ultimately led to the cancellation of the parade.
Maybe I was deceived by the joyful parades I’ve seen in past years, but I always just assumed that this was a happy band of disparate people who came together to support one another. Now I realize I was being Pollyannaish. It’s all far more complicated than it appears. If I could make an analogy it would be like the new girlfriend who goes to the reunion of a big extended family. She can see that they all love each other, but she can also see that there are disagreements over money, or child-raising, or whom mom loves most. The family presents a united front to the world, but internally there are conflicts to be resolved and past hurts to be forgiven.
The world hasn’t always been friendly to the Queer community. I have seen changes from complete denial, through hostility, bewilderment, and tentative support, to celebration. At least, that’s how it seems to me. In North America, the parades have gone from small defiant public confrontations to political rebellions, in-group celebrations, and eventually parties for the whole community. All this has taken decades and a lot of painful heartache for a lot of people, but it has been good to see positive change along the way.
We may have been slow to climb aboard, but straight people who have supported the social, political, and legal changes were starting to feel a bit smug about having cheered them on. We thought that watching and joining in the parades and Pride events were laudable contributions, so when Edmonton’s parade was cancelled it felt a bit like a rejection of our support. Of course, it isn’t about the wider community and it never was.
Their big, complicated, loud, messy family has some serious stuff to work out and they don’t need the rest of us poking our noses in. The fact that I brought a salad to the picnic doesn’t mean I get a say in how they change the ballgame to include everyone in their family. I just hope they invite me to join in when they are ready.