The deal with Pride


By Cassandra Wehrhahn

Neepawa Banner & Press

For many, June is just another month out of a twelve month year. For others, it’s a time of celebration.

June is a month long, special occasion called “Pride Month” for the LGBT+ community. For those who may not know, LGBT+ is a shortened acronym which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, and the plus stands in to include all other identities. But what is Pride Month all about? What makes it so important?

Pride is a celebration of gender, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation diversity. It is an important occasion, born more so out of necessity than a want, and is still heavily important to this day. Despite all the celebration, it is also a time of remembrance, and a chance to bring about awareness on a large scale.

The event’s historical roots lie deep within civil rights movements. It was born out of the LGBT+ community’s lack of basic rights, hate crimes, police harassment, and raids. This history is recorded (in Canada) as far back as the 1600s, when a gay military drummer was placed on trial and sentenced to death for having a First Nations man as a partner. The drummer was excused on the condition that he would accept a permanent position as executioner.

In the late 1950s all through the 1960s, RCMP kept track of all patrons of gay bars in Ottawa and other cities, working with the FBI’s own surveillance teams to alert them when suspected homosexuals crossed the border to the United States. It was only in 1969 on May 14 that the Canadian government decriminalized homosexual acts (between consenting adults) with the passing of what is known as the “Criminal Law Amendment Act”, which received royal assent on June 27 of the same year. However, same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized until July 19, 2005 with the federal Civil Marriage Act.

Although Canada as a country has come a long way, members of the LGBT+ community still face the threat of hate crimes, being disowned by their own family members, and other adversities. There is no Canada-wide inclusive education in our schools despite all these years, and in other countries LGBT+ people still face cruelties such as conversion therapy, concentration camps, and being sentenced to death simply for being different.

This is why Pride is so important.

Students in some communities, however, are stepping up. Under Manitoba’s Anti-bullying legislation, it is mandatory for all publicly funded high schools to accommodate Gay-Straight Alliances if students make a request to staff. In 2017, the Neepawa Area Collegiate formed a GSA for grades 9-12 after several students came forward. The club was promptly named “SAGA”, which stands for Sexuality and Gender Acceptance. SAGA aims to educate the student body and raise awareness about a variety of sexuality and gender-related issues, but ultimately is about providing students with a safe, non-judgmental space. Staff advisor Brittani Hammond is SAGA’s appointed advisor, and has taken the lead role in working with them.

SAGA meets on a regular basis outside of the school day to plan a few events throughout the year, and says it is always looking for new members, regardless of their sexual or gender identity. The only requirement? An open mind.