Red Deer celebrated the diversity of the LGBTQ community last week with Central Alberta Pride Week.
Drag queens, an impromptu “march” downtown, rainbow teas, fruit float, and comedy were part of the festivities.
But it wasn’t the events around the city that both delighted and enraged the community.
It was a temporary rainbow-painted crosswalk at Ross Street and Little Gaetz that compelled some to social media to spout hatred and write about the “waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Not long after the paint dried the crosswalk was marred by tire-spinning vandals forcing crews and volunteers to repaint on more than one occasion.
The Central Alberta Pride Society, however, took it in stride.
Co-chair Serge Gingras told the Advocate that there are always “a couple of yahoos that like to damage things that don’t belong to them and things they don’t agree with.”
Yes it is incredibly frustrating and troubling that a “bunch of yahoos” decided to make such a strong and visible statement.
Maybe it was intentional. Maybe it wasn’t.
“I am far more encouraged by the positive response that we got,” said Gingras. “It’s not a Red Deer problem. It happens everywhere where there are rainbow crosswalks.”
Certainly if you believed everything on the Internet and the talk around coffee shops, you would assume the city is a bunch of homophobic red necks.
That’s not the city I live in.
In 2013, Red Deer signed on to the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination. And earlier this year the city hosted the 2016 Fostering Diverse Communities.
It is important that our city and elected officials set the example.
Red Deer is a small city and it has a long road ahead before it is truly has a culture of diversity and inclusion. I see this everyday not only in the treatment of the LGBTQ people, but for our other marginalized and vulnerable groups especially our Aboriginal people.
While it took me awhile to get here, I am optimistic that the good outnumber the “yahoos” in the community.
Last week I was happy to take a call from a woman who wanted to thank the Advocate for changing our masthead to the colours of the rainbow. It was a simple act on our part but the woman said it was significant for the city’s most influential news source to take a stand.
I had braced for the onslaught of angry phone calls and emails.
Surprisingly they did not come.
During the 2015 pride week, I wrote a feature on Red Deer couple Kris Maciborsky and Paige Herman, who had been together for 16 years. We talked about their day-to-day struggles as a lesbian couple in Central Alberta and the road ahead for the community.
They were proud of what has been accomplished in the LGBTQ community – especially the legal right to marry. It was celebrations like the pride parades around the world that helped make this change.
That story received a handful of letters to the editor and phone calls. Some did not understand why a lesbian couple was on the front page of the newspaper.
Haven’t they accomplished everything they need to accomplish?
Um … no.
As a heterosexual woman, I cannot truly comprehend what it is like to live as a gay man or a lesbian in a straight world. I can only lend my support to the right to love whomever you want, and equal rights and dignity for all. I can be an advocate, an ally.
I can also ask you to take pride, Red Deer.
Take pride in living a community that painted red, orange, yellow, brown, green, blue and purple on a crosswalk.
The paint may wear off, but let’s hope the message remains.