In a small backyard in Barrie, rainbow flags were hoisted high this weekend.
Lindsay Godon and her partner Mandy Belinger opted to host their own unofficial Pride event for about 50 guests on Saturday, after discovering that no Pride parade events were planned for the city this weekend, despite Barrie Pride running the event the second weekend in June for the past five years.
“I’m very disappointed. Pride month is June, and to find out there’s no Pride this month... and why? Because of politics? It’s disappointing,” said Godon.
Barrie Pride and Fierté Simcoe Pride (FSP) have been working behind the scenes to come to an agreement about the future of Pride in Barrie.
On May 22, FSP released a proposal for the two groups to collaborate going forward on Barrie Pride events, citing concerns received by members of the local LGBTQ community about the way Barrie Pride has been running their organization.
Concerns listed in the proposal include a lack of financial transparency, alleged transphobic actions on the part of Barrie Pride, a lack of community consultation and organizational transparency, and a lack of authentic co-operation between Barrie Pride and other local organizations.
The proposal suggests possible resolutions such as Barrie Pride assigning a designate to participate on the Barrie sub-committee of FSP, acknowledgement that FSP will oversee the financial management of 2019 festivities organized by the Barrie sub-committee and creation of memorandum of understanding with FSP and other stakeholder organizations.
FSP also asked for a public apology regarding the alleged transphobic actions.
When reached by BarrieToday on Saturday, FSP president Brandon Rhéal Amyot said FSP had given Barrie Pride two weeks to make amendment suggestions and have a final meeting to finalize the agreement. The amendments were to be received by Wednesday, June 5, with the meeting set to take place Thursday, June 6.
“Amendments were not proposed at that time,” said Amyot. “The meeting that was going to take place didn’t happen. We were not given the reasons why.”
Amyot said that, as of March, when initial talks began between FSP and Barrie Pride, it was their understanding that there weren’t any Barrie Pride events planned for June.
Pride events across the world are planned annually to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June 1969.
Early in the morning of June 28, 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the riots.
“It is largely considered the beginning of our modern movement,” said Amyot.
When reached for comment on Saturday, Barrie Pride president David Bradbury says it’s the city that has moved the date of the Pride parade this year.
“The city has moved us to mid-August, either (the) second or third weekend. We will have our full Pride week then. We are anxiously awaiting the final date this coming week,” he said. “Once we have the final date confirmation, we will have a huge announcement.
“This would normally be Pride weekend in Barrie, but there have been big challenges that prevented that from happening the way we wanted it to,” Bradbury added.
Bradbury said Barrie Pride had no comment on the allegations in the FSP proposal.
“Well, we know they want to get into the mud, but we're happy to let them do that on their own,” he said.
Back in Godon and Belinger’s backyard on Saturday, attendees shared some of the difficult situations they’ve experienced being LGBTQ while living in Barrie.
“People will yell at us from their cars as they’re driving by when we’re holding hands,” said Belinger.
“We have to be selective of what kind of night clubs we go to,” Godon said. “When the Lakeside (Upper Deck) opened (downtown), we were ecstatic. We went every single Saturday. Before that, we went to The Queens.
"We can’t dance like a straight couple can. We would get men who try to get between us.”
Godon says that since management changed in March at Lakeside, the venue is no longer an LGBTQ bar.
“It’s not a nightclub anymore like it was when it was Lakeside,” said Godon. “We could dance and be ourselves and feel comfortable and not have to worry. We met a lot of our friends who are coming tonight at that bar because it was a place for us to go and feel safe.”
Kawlita Medeiros recently immigrated to Canada, and met Godon and Belinger at Lakeside.
“I’m new in this country and it’s hard for me, because I'm feeling... like there’s no community,” said Medeiros.
Matt Miller says he and his husband have dealt with discrimination in Barrie.
“We can’t hold hands. We wouldn’t dare to. We’ve been called names,” said Miller.
“There’s a difference for me between how gay men are treated and how lesbians (are treated),” said Laura McNevin. “Gay men get more physical (intimidation) and are yelled at. For girls, it’s more sexual harassment.”
“There’s fear. We’re afraid for our lives, sometimes,” said Miller. “It’s a shame. I love my husband very much, and I would love to walk down the street and hold hands. We can’t do that.”
All attendees shared concerns about the future of Pride in Barrie.
“I think it’s outrageous that Pride festivities are stalled because one group is refusing to work with the community, and we’re all suffering because of it,” said Miller.
“For me, I’m almost ashamed, because it puts a bad light on our city. I’m almost embarrassed. I love Barrie and, up until this point, it’s been fine, I think,” he said. “We need to unite under one umbrella and remember what Pride is all about.”
Godon said her spirit feels a little bit broken.
“That was our voice and when our voices are fighting with each other, you feel less powerful because your voice is gone,” she said.
Looking forward, many of the attendees of the unofficial Pride party on Saturday feel so betrayed by the situation, they are thinking twice about attending Barrie Pride events in August.
“I don’t know if I can. I feel like they’ve lost it all and they’re going to have to figure out how to pick it back up,” said Godon.
“I don’t know if I want to support them. I know that, right now, they’re not supporting us,” said Miller.
“I feel like we’re taking steps forward (as a community), but when you don’t have something in the month of June, it’s like taking steps backward,” said Belinger.
“We don’t want to celebrate Pride in August. We want to celebrate it in June when Pride is celebrated,” said Godon.
Fierte Simcoe Pride events are slated to take place in Barrie from July 29 to Aug. 11.
Dates for Barrie Pride events are still to be determined.