Chilly weather didn’t stop people from coming out to Smithers second annual pride celebration last Saturday.
“A pride day is super important to just help show that we embrace the LGBTQ community,” Smithers Secondary teacher and Gender Sexuality Alliance sponsor Perry Rath said. “It’s important for allies as well to be visible to show their support.”
The celebration took place at the rainbow crosswalk on Main Street at noon. United Church minister Debbie Bentham said a prayer at the event.
“My hope is that people that will know that there are Christians in the community who not only support [LGBTQ+ individuals] but also celebrate who they are,” Bentham said of her participation in the event. “God looked back after creating humankind in all its diversity [and] said it’s good. [Our church] comes from that standpoint of every human being is created in God’s image, every human being is good, and we rejoice in having that diversity.”
Safeway showed its support for the event by giving out free burgers and water.
“So many of our employees identify personally with the community. It’s just the right thing to do,” Safeway manger Matt Hexter said. “We gave our word as long as the pride events are happening here we’re going to be a part of it.”
Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre provided bannock and coffee for the event.
“It’s not known publicly that there is this much support in the community [for LGBTQ+ people],”employment coordinator Sophie Perodeau said. “It’s very important for people to have that level of comfort and just to know that there are options and that you’re not going through this alone.”
Smithers Public Library had a booth set up at the celebration which showcased and listed books and dvds with LGBTQ+ and two-spirited themes.
The library will also be hosting a LGBTQ+ themed storytime event for preschool aged children on Saturday, June 2 from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.
Kids will get a chance to listen to stories, songs and action rhymes about LGBTQ+ characters.
“One of the reasons why it’s so important for us to represent diversity of all kinds in our collection and in our programming is because by never introducing children to anyone who looks different, anyone who believes something different, anyone who lives a different lifestyle, then it can perceived by the child as something that’s not spoken of and therefore negative,” library director Wendy Wright said.
Positive Living North, CICK Smithers community radio, Northern Society for Domestic Peace, Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society and Tim Hortons also helped organize the event.
Town of Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach spoke at the celebration.
“[This celebration is] about sharing a message with residents of our community that no matter who they love, that they deserve the same level of respect and belonging that every Smithereen enjoys.” Bachrach said. “I think [this message] is particularly important for young people because we do know that LGBTQ youth tend to leave small communities. That’s unfortunate because when they do they take with them all of their talents and potential contributions to the future of our town.”
Rath said Smithers Secondary will be getting the district’s first gender neutral washroom and changeroom this summer.
“I think it will just increase the comfort levels for students who identify as non-binary to be able to participate without feeling judged based on their gender identity,” Rath said.