Guest Blog from Ann Zee
As I close in on 50 years of spinning around this sun, I can’t help but reflect on what a great day June 22nd, 2019 was. I had the opportunity to walk in Airdrie’s very first Solidarity Walk, which was Airdrie’s very first Pride Festival organized by Airdrie Pride.
You see, I marched in Calgary‘s first march in 1990.
The two events were very different. In 1990, Queer folks had no protections under the Human Rights Charter. For the march, many of us wore bandanas as masks and feared being recognized by employers, landlords, family, and friends. We marched knowing that we would be met with abusive shouts and no police protection. In those days, the police refused to protect a “gay” march. As well, we couldn’t get any insurance to cover our procession and instead could only get coverage by being under the guise of another grassroots organization. I remember trying to cross the road as cars were cutting us off. Our procession splintered but we kept on walking.
I remember one of the people I was marching with lost her job the next day because people from her work came out along the route and saw her marching. At the end of the march, we were greeted by protestors who had their pit bulls with them. I will never forget the smug smile from the woman who leered at me as I stood near her.
We marched because we knew our lives depended on it.
In Airdrie’s Solidarity Walk, I walked in solidarity with many others who were there for their own personal reasons and collectively attended to show support. Twenty-nine years is a sizeable enough gap that we have seen some progressive changes, which paved the way for the peaceful march that day. I was pleased to see that the Airdrie Mayor and local politicians were there as well, and I hope they were there for the right reasons. I was overjoyed to see so many allies out to support and so many youth who were not afraid and instead felt empowered to walk.
Although twenty-nine years have passed, we still face similar challenges. LGBTQAA2S+ people still endure ignorance and violence. And queer youth today have their own set of battles such as the UCP’s intended rollback of GSA protections. Bullying is ever-present and the saddest realization from this is that their fist perpetrators are often their families. Yes, the people who are supposed to love and care for them. Suicide rates and homelessness are still high amongst our young folks.
THIS IS WHY WE MARCH.
I was delighted to see all the people of all identifications walk that day. I was so happy to see the bullies stayed home. I was so happy we walked in peace.
The past few days had been cold and rainy, but the sun shone brightly that day, of course, it did. And I am optimistic.