Pride Month organizers have launched a series of events celebrating gender diversity and commemorating generations of activism, with a longtime coordinator calling Pride’s post-COVID resurgence the most extensive expression of support for the LGBTQ2+ community she has seen yet on the Sunshine Coast.
“All of a sudden this year it just sort of took off,” said Bet Cecil, chair of the Sunshine Coast Pride Dance Committee and a Pride Month volunteer contributor for over 10 years. “There are all kinds of people who have not normally been doing anything that are sponsoring events. There’s no big organization that does everything. It started out really small. And then if people want to do more things, they form little groups to do other things.”
At recent council meetings, the Town of Gibsons and the District of Sechelt passed proclamations declaring June as Pride Month. On June 1, volunteers and civic staff raised the rainbow-hued Pride flag in the three locations: Pioneer Park in Gibsons, Sechelt’s municipal hall on Toredo Street, and at the headquarters of the Sunshine Coast Regional District offices on Field Road.
A Pride march and afternoon festival will take place at the Davis Bay pier on June 5. The march, hosted by local drag performer The Unstoppable Conni Smudge (a creation of artist Chris Bolton), will carry crowds to Mission Point. Vendors, public art, and an all-ages drag show are being coordinated by the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society. A Pride Fest Afterparty is scheduled for Tapworks Brewing Company later the same evening.
Shayne Forster, lead of youth services for the Sunshine Coast Community Services, coordinates the Gender Diverse Network — and a Queer Youth Drop-In that attracts more than a dozen participants to its monthly meetings. “I’d say that the Sunshine Coast is very inclusive and very supportive,” he said. The greatest challenge, he acknowledges, is geography: connecting gender-diverse individuals and allies from far-flung communities along the Highway 101 corridor.
“Its communities seem interested in moving forward in the conversation,” said Forster, “by creating opportunities for youth and others on the Coast. We do a lot of consulting and figuring out where the gaps are, and how we can work together to create space for everybody. Our ears are open. We want to work together as a community and make things safer, make things more progressive.”
Drag events dominate the 2022 Pride Month calendar. The Gibsons and District Public Library will host Drag Queen Storytime (led by the Pine ‘n’ Sandy Drag Troupe) on June 8; the Sechelt Library follows suit with two storytime sessions on June 23 and June 25 led by drag performers Candi Strutts and Davis Gay respectively. Tapworks welcomes the public for a Pride Drag Cabaret on June 11. Salt & Swine is sponsoring Drag Bingo at its restaurant location in Gibsons on June 4, with Conni Smudge serving as master of ceremonies.
The Pride Golf Tournament — which takes place at the Blue Ocean Golf Course on June 26 — has already sold out.
For Cecil, the highlight of every Pride Month is the dance, which is scheduled for June 25 at the Roberts Creek Hall. (A Youth Pride Dance takes place the night before at the same location.)
“I love to dance,” said Cecil, “and partly why I joined the dance committee was to make sure that it was accessible. The dances originally started out having a fixed price but for many years now we’ve had a sliding scale. So no one will not be turned away.” Attendees paying at the door simply pay what they can.
Despite the public embrace of LGBTQ2+ identities and support systems for queer youth, Cecil feels that vision of Pride Month’s original architects has not yet been realized.
“In the beginning there was a lot of hope that [the Pride movement] would lead to understanding about other kinds of oppression,” she said. “That has not been so true—or as true as I would like it. It’s a good thing that there’s more awareness. And I want to see that kind of support extended to everybody, whatever their background, their culture, the colour of their skin.”
A full calendar of Pride Month events is available at sunshinecoastpride.com.