Each year on July 14, the rainbow flag flies at the city hall in Dawson.
The timing is a bit unusual, given that Pride celebrations are held around the world in June. But the date was chosen in honour of July 14, 2004, when the Yukon became the fourth jurisdiction in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage after a lawsuit brought by Rob Edge and Stephen Dunbar.
And this Thursday, Dawson is kicking it up a notch.
Kim Edgar is organizing the first Pride parade Dawson has seen in nearly a decade.
She got the idea after talking to a friend who works at a women’s shelter in town and realizing that Dawson doesn’t really have an advocacy group for queer or trans issues, she said.
She decided that organizing a Pride parade would be a step in the right direction.
“It’s about visibility, it’s about making the streets feel comfortable for people who are otherwise marginalized and it’s about pride,” she said.
The parade on Thursday will be a fairly low-key event. People will gather at Victory Gardens at 5:30 p.m. and walk to City Hall, where they’ll be met with pizza and snacks.
A few groups have planned floats for the parade, including the League of Lady Wrestlers, who are aiming for a ring with two women wrestling. The Westminster Hotel is also planning a float and will be hosting a Pride party that night.
“I’ve never planned a parade before, so I’m keeping it very simple for myself right now,” Edgar said. “I think as long as there are people and we’re walking and we’re visible … I think that’s the key for me.”
Edgar stressed that Dawson is an inclusive town with an active LGBTQ culture. She said when she started organizing the event, some people questioned whether Dawson really needs a Pride parade. But she believes Pride can help teach people about sexuality and gender identity – it’s not just about fighting discrimination.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a protest in Dawson in the same way. It’s not an angry thing. It’s more just a celebration of pride. Because homophobia and transphobia tell us that we shouldn’t be proud of who we are, we should be ashamed. And so it’s sort of radical to be proud,” she said.
“And it doesn’t mean that the town’s not accepting. It’s a very accepting town.”
Dawson City Mayor Wayne Potoroka said he’s been waiting for someone like Edgar to create an event like this to celebrate Pride. On July 14 last year, he offered pizza at City Hall, but “not a whole pile of people showed up,” he said.
“I think there’s a value in celebrating the contributions of the LGBTQ community and again reaffirming our town’s commitment to equality,” he said.
He hopes the event will help young people questioning their sexuality or identity to feel comfortable in the community.
“In the Klondike, we have a good history of personal freedoms and diversity and this is one way to celebrate that,” he said.
This isn’t the first Pride parade in Dawson’s history. There was a small parade around 2008, Edgar said, but there haven’t been any others since then.
“I really think it’s just nobody has been able to organize it,” she said. “It’s a town full of extremely civically engaged volunteers. So I think that people just haven’t had the time.”
She said she’d like to organize another parade next year. And she hopes that Dawson may eventually have its own Pride group, which could help to educate people about the ever-shifting landscape of gender identity.
“The possibilities of gender non-conforming and trans individuals and the ways they can identify and how to treat them with respect has evolved so much in the past five years alone,” she said. “I can understand how people who maybe don’t go on the internet a lot don’t know how to keep up with that.
“So I think it’s important to have advocacy for those people.”
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org