What a difference a few years make.
This summer, the group that founded Safe ‘n Sound Squamish in 2014 disbanded, as those who launched it moved on in their careers, personal lives or from Squamish.
During its time, the group of dedicated local volunteers hosted conferences, events, and training to help educate on and celebrate LGBTQ2S+ issues.
“When we started Safe ‘n Sound, it was at a time when youth, families, and community members were desperate for increased action and education on this topic,” said Margo Dent, the organization’s former executive director, in a news release.
“We still believe there is much work to be done in this community, but we think that Squamish is ready for and rife with a new wave of LGBTQ2S+ leaders and allies who will take up the mantle.”
[Though Safe ‘n Sound is no more, the Sounding Room — a monthly drop in for LGBTQ2s+ individuals, families and allies — will carry on.]
The founders, like Dent, deserve kudos for raising awareness and acceptance.
Not that long ago, the district was a far less open place.
A clue to that is in the original group’s name. Five or so years ago, some did not feel safe being honest about who they were.
Others wear the scars physically and emotionally of being seen as different in what was then a small logging town. While it may shock some who are being raised with a lineup of celebrities, sports stars and musicians who are openly ‘out’, same-sex sexual activity was illegal in Canada until 1969.
Let that sink in. It was illegal.
In 1967, then-justice minister and attorney general of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, introduced Bill C-150. The bill passed two years later, decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada.
So the less tolerant Squamish of the not-so-distant past, was reflective of a time when to be gay was not only socially risky, it was considered a criminal act.
Safe ‘n Sound Squamish in many ways made Squamish safer for everyone, by highlighting inclusion and compassion and by broadening understanding.
Let’s hope that Pride Squamish reflects an evolved Squamish where the collective dial has advanced significantly.
Not to say that there still isn’t gender and sex-based violence and intolerance in this town. Unfortunately, there is.
But with the flag-raising Sept. 9 at muni hall, the Pride Squamish march and festival on Sunday, the message is that inclusion is expected. Not asked for. Not requested. It is expected. As it should be.
Sunday, people from various walks of life, including the leaders of local churches headed downtown to support Pride.
The rain dampened the grass and reduced the numbers of revellers somewhat, but not the spirit of the event.
There were hugs and smiles all around. Thank you to Pride Squamish organizers for a great series of events. And well done to the organizations and businesses who supported their initiatives along the way.
Your presence was noted.
As Pride Squamish organizer Bri Turner said, representation and feeling welcome is essential for everyone.
“I think for young queer people, seeing members of your community thriving — happy adults who are welcomed and loved by their community — is just amazing.”