The inaugural Airdrie Pride Festival was planned with intention. From the Solidarity Walk to the speeches and entertainment, our core values coloured our decisions. But no festival this big can be done on good intentions alone. We needed dollars and for that we needed sponsors. We were prepared for a larger business or corporation to step up and offer us money in exchange for the publicity. What we got was absolute magic.
Rose Gold Body Piercing is a small local business owned by Courtney Rose. You can find them at 513 Centre Ave East, just behind the Dairy Queen on Edmonton Trail. The first thing you will notice as you approach the door is their mission statement: ALL ARE WELCOME, ALL races & ethnicities, ALL countries of origin, ALL gender identities, ALL sexual orientations, ALL abilities. EVERYONE you are safe here. Once inside you are greeted by their exceptional staff, cleanliness, and professionalism. You know this business oozes respect and inclusivity.
At the heart of this business lies its owner. A fierce champion for the underdog and the marginalized. Though she identifies as a straight cisgender woman, she also understands what it feels like to not belong or not to have a place where you fit in. Courtney said, “We are a small business. I’m a mom. It’s a lot of work. Choosing to take on something like this sponsorship is a big deal for a small business like ours. But I had to jump in as soon as I saw that it was going to happen in my hometown. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to jump on the board. I wanted to volunteer.”
Courtney was raised in Airdrie and describes her experience in high school as having very defined gender norms with no open discussion about sexuality. Courtney explained, “When I wanted to play football in high school, it was a huge, huge deal because I was a female that played tier two high school football with the boys. You were not allowed to do anything that was different or be different when I was in high school in the early 2000s.” Back then, there was nowhere to just be yourself if you were different. Whereas today Courtney says, “I think it is just more okay in Airdrie to be who you are to be and to be celebrated for it. There are more places that it’s okay to be who you want to be, and to adorn your body the way you choose.” She is blown away by the initiatives in our city such as PRYSM, The Boys and Girls Club, and Airdrie Mental Health that are supporting our youth. Courtney said, “Now it’s more accepted to say, “Hey, this is who I am.” and you have a group of people that are going to support you. Rose Gold Body Piercing wants to be that group. We want to be those people.”
But Courtney’s support of the LGBTQ community is not only exclusive to Airdrie. She and another member of the Association of Professional Piercers created an online group for non-male identifying piercers because their industry has been historically male-dominated. The group is called Piercer Babes and includes just over 1500 members who are professional body piercers and who identify as female, transgender, nonbinary, and/or lesbian. It is a safe space to discuss topics they can’t otherwise discuss out in the open. One such topic is the new frontier of piercings for post-surgical transgender people with their differing nerve structure and physiology. Because of her work in Piercer Babes, Courtney was sent to Facebook headquarters to talk about the love and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
If there is one message Courtney wants us all to hear loud and clear it is this: “Just keep on being who you are, and celebrate it every single day because there are people in this community who are rooting for you. We just want you to succeed and we want you to be who you want to be, regardless of what that is. I don’t care! I just want you to be you and I want you to come into my studio and I want you to feel comfortable and welcome like any other human.” Having Rose Gold Body Piercing as our lead sponsor was the best fit we could have ever imagined.