They met at a high school in Drayton Valley.
For Kris Maciborsky, it was pretty much love at first sight.
She said there was just something about Paige Herman and she knew they would spend the rest of their lives together.
“When you meet the person you’re supposed to be with, you just know,” she said.
A pair of shoelaces started the ball rolling in their relationship.
“One day after class we were standing by the door to leave the room and she said she liked my shoelaces,” said Maciborsky. “Then we started hanging out and that was (the beginning).”
Sixteen and a half years later, the couple are married and living in Red Deer.
Herman, 34, moved to Red Deer from Drayton Valley in 2000 to attend Red Deer College and Maciborksy, 34, followed a year later.
They tied the knot in April 2009 after Maciborsky had pestered Herman into saying “I do” for about a decade.
Herman joked that she did not want to get married until it was legal to file for divorce if things didn’t work out.
They were married by former Sunnybrook United Church pastor Paul Mullen at a chapel in Calgary.
Herman was not as comfortable as her wife was in coming out to her family. She had attempted to tell her parents in 2002 but concerns about what other family members would say or feel stopped her from sharing.
“I thought this isn’t going that well so I will drop it for now,” said Herman, who is visually impaired. “There was a girl in high school who was out as long as I remember and everyone liked her and supported her. We weren’t sure we would get the same reaction.”
Years later, her family found out inadvertently through a family friend who was not invited to Herman and Maciborsky’s wedding. She called Herman’s parents to complain that she was left off the guest list.
“In a way it was somewhat of a relief that I don’t have to do it,” she laughed. “At the same time, I didn’t think it was appropriate.”
Herman said her father had the most difficulty accepting her news but mainly because others knew before her parents.
It took her family four or five months to come around and now they couldn’t be any closer, said Herman.
Maciborsky, a group home support worker, came out to her family and friends several years before her partner. They were supportive and understanding.
Herman and Maciborsky are looking forward to taking part in the planned activities for Central Alberta Pride Week, which began on Friday and wraps up on Thursday.
They say the week is about celebrating diversity of the LGBTQ community in region.
“I hope straight people who are allies come out, too,” said Maciborksy. “We are not looking for special treatment. We just want to be recognized and treated as equals.”
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of legalized same-sex marriage in Canada. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court made it legal for same-sex couples to marry in all states.
Tony Jeglum, co-organizer of Central Alberta Pride, said it is important for citizens to see their government recognizing gay people as human beings.
“A lot of people ask why are we having pride in Red Deer,” said Jeglum. “Haven’t we accomplished everything we need to accomplish? I don’t think we have accomplished everything we need to accomplish. That’s why it’s very important to have things like the mayoral proclamation.”
He said when you humanize “the other” then it becomes a lot easier to accept the other. Strides have been made in the last 20 years for people between the ages of 18 and 65 in the gay and lesbian community, said Jeglum, 35.
But he said teenagers are still having a tough time coming out to their families and being welcomed by society.
Herman and Maciborsky are not sure what it would take to make the LGBTQ community more acceptable in today’s society.
“I think religion is always going to be in the way,” said Herman.
Jeglum said he had a positive experience coming out 10 years ago because people in his demographic were afforded every right and privilege by society that straight people have had. He said he is part of the generation where everyone older than him immediately left for Vancouver or Toronto, and many of those five years younger than him stayed in Central Alberta.
“It really delights and impresses me that the number of people in their early 20s who are staying here,” said Jeglum. “They are saying, yeah this is home. Why should I go and have to hide in some gay ghetto just because I am a homosexual?”
Maciborsky said it helps that there are many more celebrities and role models who are open about their sexuality, including Caitlyn Jenner.
“Fifteen years ago, you could name three,” said Maciborsky. “It was a career ender.”
But as Jeglum said, there are still hurdles to cross, particularly for the transgender community.
“We have not seen the same amount of rights and privileges and acceptance to the trans community,” he said. “That’s where we need to keep fighting.”
The couple say it would be great to have a Central Alberta chapter of the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), a national group that helps Canadians with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. There are chapters in Calgary and Edmonton.
Monica Loewen is a contact for the group in Lacombe. There are no meetings. She answers questions and talks to people who may have just come out or are the parents of someone in the LQBTQ community.
For a full list of Pride Week events, visit www.caans.
Check out PFLAG at www.pflagcanada.ca and Loewen at 403-782-5513.