Whitehorse basks in 24 Hours of Gaylight

‘You are worthy, you are loved, you are enough’

A sea of colour wound its way down Main Street in Whitehorse on June 23 — hundreds of people parading their way to Shipyards Park as part of this year’s 24 Hours of Gaylight celebration.

The location switched from Rotary Park because Pride keeps growing, said Stephanie Hammond, president of the Queer Yukon Society. Prior to the first official Pride in 2013 there were Pride picnics, but they were much smaller and more private, she said.

In its sixth year, Pride celebrations started a day early. The society partnered with the Yukon Human Rights Commission to talk about queer rights at the Old Fire Hall on June 22, followed by an all-ages dance for youth.

Alongside the barbeque at Shipyards Park, there were games for kids and a performance by the Whitehorse Chamber Choir.

Queer Yukon officially formed as a society this year. Hammond has been in Whitehorse since 2011, and started the website queeryukon.com because “there was no way for folks to meet other than bumping into people.” The society now hosts social events such as karaoke and bowling nights and drag dancing.

In 2013, Vanier Catholic Secondary School adopted a policy calling homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil.” Hammond said organizers started Pride because they didn’t want that to be the message, particularly for youth. The policy was eventually overturned.

“It was a great opportunity actually that the church created this document, and we got hundreds of people out onto Main Street saying that’s not what they wanted,” she said.

“They wanted a society that was loving and inclusive and welcoming and celebratory. Not even just accepting, but celebratory of diversity.”

Matthew Latendre, manager of customer service for Whitehorse’s TD Bank, said he is shocked by the size of the parade in comparison to when he was working in Ontario, where the population of his city was almost six times larger than Whitehorse.

“I’m a gay person myself, so Pride’s a huge thing,” he said.

“Moving up here I had no idea what it was going to be like, what my life was going to be like…there’s actually a huge population that’s supporting and it’s loving.”

Volunteers from Latendre’s workplace put on the barbecue this year, and Latendre said the branch closed for a couple of hours so staff could walk in the parade.

“For people who are not feeling supported, for people who are feeling vulnerable, it’s something to boost them up and carry them through,” said Hammond.

“Maybe you aren’t feeling acceptance from your family or elsewhere, but there’s this. You are worthy, you are loved, you are enough.”

Dawson City’s Pride parade is scheduled for July 14.

Contact Kallan Lyons at kallan.lyons@yukon-news.com

Photos by Crystal Schick/Yukon News

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