Ava Fontaine was near the head of the Kootenay Pride parade this year. Perched in the sunroof of a black truck with “PRIDE” spray-painted down the side, she wore a tight red corset as she waved to supporters on all sides.
“This is my first Pride, so me being on top of a car like that was amazing, incredible. Just a rush,” said Fontaine, who is a male to female transsexual.
She transitioned approximately a year ago.
“I come from Kimberley, which isn’t all that interesting. I am the most interesting part of Kimberley. But then you come here and there’s so many people, so much love. And it’s not that far away.”
Fontaine said she was moved by the supportive cheers she received.
“You wouldn’t have been able to do this twenty years ago,” she said. “Trans is here now, and people are very accepting of it. I haven’t had too much trouble and that’s a great thing.”
Nick, a local businessmen, said the highlight of the parade was seeing his children dancing on the pink 18-wheeler bringing up the rear of the parade.
“They were up on that truck. I loved the dancing. I am a very proud father today,” he said.
Amanda and Tisha Stafford, who were visiting from rural Alberta, decided to march in the parade holding hands, their hair vibrantly dyed.
“We came because our cousins live here. We came to visit and do Nelson Pride, and it was awesome. We’re coming next year,” said Tisha.
Vianca Vavoom, who marched in the parade, said she was heartened to see so many children lining the streets.
“It was great this year to see such a fabulous turnout of people. It was so great to see all the little ones. It’s great for their awareness for them to come out.”
Vavoom said this was the largest turnout she’s ever seen, since she moved here in 2007.
“To see the youth all the way to the elderly here, all walks of life, it’s really a great community. I’m proud to be part of it,” she said.
“I believe we’re all the same on the inside. We’re all beautiful people and we’re not defined by our race, our colour or our sexuality. We’re all living souls,” she said, before breaking into a jubilant cheer.
“Freedom and equality for everyone!” she yelled.
Trail resident Daniel Vancoughnett has been participating in the parade for more than ten years.
“A lot of times, in your own life, you feel quite alone,” said Vancoughnett. “When we gather together like this it really makes you feel like a family. It makes you feel whole.”
Vancoughnett said this year he had to dress for his age, which meant donning a toga.
“At this stage of my life I need to drape myself, so I chose to be an older, fatter Caesar,” he said, with a laugh.
The parade began in Cottonwood Falls Park and continued to Hall and Baker Street, where a party was thrown by the offices of the Nelson Star. Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, who led the parade, gave a speech to the crowd.
“It is such a pleasure to be here celebrating diversity and love. That’s what our community is all about,” said Mungall.
“This is about human rights. Being here and calling for human rights, that everyone single person matters. Every single person has the right to love whom they choose. That’s a political statement, and we make it here every year with fabulous colours, dance moves and this year I brought my new sparkle shoes,” she said.
She told the crowd she’s currently working on trans rights in the legislature along with her colleague Spencer Chandra-Herbert, who has been trying to introduce legislation to protect transexual individuals but has so far been unsuccessful.
She shared Chandra-Herbert’s adoption story, which ended in him and his husband not being allowed to adopt a child because they’re gay.
“That child is now in foster care and was denied a loving home because there’s still hate out there. So every year we come down Baker Street and we shake our tush, we dance and have a great time because we know celebrating love is the exact opposite of expressing hate.”