The September long weekend Kootenay Pride parade has become an accepted part of the late summer calendar. It wasn’t always that way.
Back in the late 1990s, Kootenay Pride found itself in the middle of a major political dust-up starring former mayor Gary Exner. When organizers approached the city about signing a proclamation to declare Gay Pride Week in Nelson, the mayor refused to sign.
Our little mountain community was thrust into the provincial media spotlight as the standoff sparked debate around tolerance. In a city known for acceptance and an eclectic mix of people, it seemed like an unlikely well for the discussion.
When the parade dances through the downtown on Sunday, those bleak days of intolerance won’t be on the minds of many.
“In the past, it may have been necessary to have pride in protest,” Pride president Jason Peil told the Star this week. “There was a time when pride meant carving a space to have a safe space to be out together and comfortable in your own community.”
Peil said this year’s event is about celebration and thanking the community for being so accepting of everyone.
It’s heartening to know the negative headlines around gay pride are history. Our society has come a long way since the late 1990s and it seems incredible that there was even debate in the first place.
Congratulations to Kootenay Pride organizers for all their hard work over the years to make the Labour Day long weekend a much more colourful time of year. It wasn’t easy at times, but true acceptance is a satisfying reward.