On Saturday, June 1, North Grenville held its first ever Pride event. The day began with a flag-raising at the Municipal Centre at 11 am. Community members, Pride volunteers, and municipal council were all on hand to witness the raising of, not only the Pride flag, but the Transgender flag as well. “While this is not the first time for this ceremony, what we are doing today is raising two flags,” Mayor Nancy Peckford said. “There are only a few courageous communities who do that.”
Mayor Peckford said that council has been asked many times by a select few why they felt the need to raise the Pride flag and participate in the parade through downtown. “We stand here today for all of North Grenville, whether or not you choose to be here, because, by building a more inclusive and open-hearted community, everyone benefits. By helping to erase the shame and denial many LGBTQ2 folks and their families experience, we are saying that no matter your gender or sexual identity, or that of your child, we welcome you, and you deserve our community’s respect and support.”
North Grenville’s first Pride event was spearheaded by the Rainbow Union of Dundas and Grenville, a group which supports LGBTQ2 people and their families in the area. Founder, Holly Brown, says that, in a few short months, they were able to garner huge support for Kemptville Pride from the community, allowing them to organize a vibrant celebration of the LBTQ2 community. “I won’t talk for long or I might cry,” Holly said at the flag raising. “All of our money came from you. You shared our stuff, you promoted us, you lifted us up, we are your neighbours and your friends and we thank you.”
Holly started Rainbow Union of Dundas and Grenville after her daughter came out to her two years ago. She had just bought a house in North Dundas and thought she had made a huge mistake. “What have I done?” she thought.
But Holly persevered and created the Rainbow Union so all LGBTQ2 people in the area could have a place to go and feel supported. “I demanded more. I raised my expectations. I insisted on inclusiveness and I was met with reception, and love and money,” she said. “Thank you for showing us that you care.”
North Grenville also had a special guest from Almonte at the flag-raising ceremony. Twelve-year-old Warner Schaettgen is transgender and an advocate for the LGBTQ2 community in Ottawa and surrounding area. She was only two and a half years old when she told her mother, “God made a mistake. I’m really a little girl.”
Warner has spoken at many pride events, and was even a speaker at We Day in November, 2018. “There are multiple reasons why I speak out; but the main reasons are to educate others and promote understanding, so that people don’t have to stay in the closet,” she said. “One of my goals is that it is safe for people to come out and have no fear during the time of finding themselves, so they can come out and be proud and happy.”
Warner says she has a great life, and hopes that events like Kemptville Pride will help others find the love and acceptance she has found. “At the beginning of my journey, I had to fight for my family to see me as the girl I really was,” she remembers. “If my parents hadn’t found the right supportive people, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today.”
At around 11:20 am, the Pride flag and Transgender flag were raised at the Municipal Centre, where they will fly for the whole month of June. The celebrations continued with a large parade through downtown Kemptville, ending in Riverside Park with a vendors market. “By raising this flag and marching alongside you today, we truly hope we are sowing the seeds for a brighter future for all of North Grenville,” said Mayor Peckford.