They’re here, they’re queer, and Prince Albert seems pretty much used to it.
The city’s LGBT community celebrated ten years of pride with its annual parade on Saturday. Along with supporters, they marched through downtown streets to honks, waves and cheers.
Jennifer Lenny Brockman, the main organizer of this year’s event, said past marches have confronted pushback and insults. This year, she only saw love.
“Having that community welcome is good to see,” she said. “There’s always fear, when we do parades and events around sexual and gender diversity, that there’s going to be something negative – and I didn’t see anything like that this year. I just saw more welcoming responses.
“It helps me to feel that the work we’re doing here is making a difference.”
The parade attracted about 100 marchers, including three city councillors, the police chief, an MLA, a United Church minister and ordinary citizens young and old.
Police Chief Troy Cooper said he’s seen a radical change in attitudes during his decades of police work. He remembers a time when consensual same-sex relationships were against the law. And police had the woeful job of enforcing state-sponsored discrimination.
“We saw confrontation with the LGBT community right up into the 80’s,” he said. “I’ve seen it change slowly, but certainly over the last ten years … people are wondering why it was ever a big deal.”
Cooper brought his four daughters to the event, along with his deputy chief. The police presence, he said, is a sign that the city’s institutions are firmly on the side of acceptance. He wants LGBT people to feel safe to be themselves.
“This is not something that deserves shame,” he said. “This is something that we can celebrate. This is diversity and inclusion. This is our community.”
John McDonald, an artist who identifies as bisexual, said it’s amazing to see the “multitudes of people coming out.” Pardon the pun, he added, enjoying the double entendre. Like Cooper and Brockman, he’s noticed the parade pick up steam year after year.
“It’s grown,” he said. “We’re not having people shout expletives at us as we walk down the street, as has happened in the past.”
The parade maintained a festive atmosphere throughout an otherwise miserable day. Rainbow umbrellas protected the marchers from the spitting sky. Marjorie Beaucage, an elder from Duck Lake, kicked off the marching with the beat of her drum.
“I’ve been here every year, every year, to support the youth,” she said. “Cause P.A. needs to know that we’re here and accept the way things are now.”
Beaucage said Prince Albert’s parade has always struck her as a more intimate affair than big showy events in large cities.
“I don’t like big city corporate prides. I like community-based prides, where people form community together,” she said. “It’s just more interactive. The people, they’re visiting and even with the performances, it’s not just a show. It’s people from the community showing who they are.”
After the parade circled back to Memorial Square, the performers did exactly that: show themselves. The steps in front of City Hall hosted Prince Albert’s first-ever public drag king act. It’s a reversal of the more familiar drag queens, instead depicting stereotypically macho men.
Dexton Bourne said it’s all about getting into character.
“This is the first time that drag’s really come to Prince Albert,” Bourne said. “There’s a lot before actually going on stage and lip synching… it’s more about what kind of drag you’re going to do, your name, your persona, and then your outfit comes last.”
At City Hall, Bourne became Ivan Tuplzu – a cocky Russian businessman in a fedora hat. With time, Bourne worries, character and reality are starting to fade into each other.
“Those lines between me and Ivan have started to blur.”
Next year’s pride could be an even bigger show. Soon after Ivan left the stage, Emperor Kerry Herbags of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Governing Body, Golden Wheat Sheaf Empire announced that his organization of drag queens and kings will be donating to pride events across the province. He said they’ll be bypassing well-established festivities in Saskatoon and Regina to focus on smaller communities.
“We will be handing out cheques to all of the various pride organizations, P.A. pride being one of them,” he said.
On those same steps, Councillor Evert Botha gave the city’s blessing to the events of the day. There’s always more work to be done, he said, but he commended the organizers on what he called the biggest pride ever.
“I think now more than ever you should know that you have a voice you are part of this community,” he said. “When I look out and see all the flags waving, it just reminds me of how far we’ve come.”