What’s coming up this Pride weekend in Ottawa

Trans march, Sunday’s parade, and creating spaces for queer people of colour

Graham Robertson, Editor

The celebrations are well underway for this year’s Pride week in Ottawa, and if you haven’t yet checked out what’s going on, we’ve got all the details on the hottest events happening this weekend.

Creating spaces in the LGBTQ community for people of colour

On Friday, Aug. 24, Ppl. nightclub will be hosting its first Pride night, as a way to promote dialogue about the need for more support for people of colour in mainstream LGBTQ spaces.

According to Pamela Twagirayezu, one of the organizers of the event, queer people of colour, specifically queer Black people, are often an afterthought within both communities.

“Despite the impact that they’ve had in the progression of acceptance and visibility to the movement, they are still living at the intersection of racism, homophobia, and transphobia, both in the queer community and the Black community.”

She points to the 2016 sit-in at Toronto Pride by Black Lives Matter Toronto as an example of queer people of colour pushing for acceptance in mainstream LGBTQ spaces, adding that while these public acts help spark dialogue about the issue, there are still so many instances of queer people of colour being denied access to spaces, abused, and killed that we don’t hear about.

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Image: Courtesy of Pamela Twagirayezu.

As Twagirayezu explains, queer Black people in particular have to leave their culture and their Blackness at the door when attempting to access queer spaces, despite the fact that these spaces often profit off of Black culture, such as with Black music and the use of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). In contrast, queer Black people often face discrimination when they use AAVE, according to Twagirayezu.

Twagirayezu says she and her team at Ppl. wanted a space during Ottawa’s Pride weekend where queer Black people can “be unapologetically themselves” and celebrate their culture in a safe environment. The staff at Ppl. will have sensibility and diversity training for the event, and gender inclusive bathrooms will be available.

Celebrating resilience and strength within the trans and Two-Spirit community

This year’s Odawa Two-Spirit, Trans, and Gender Diverse March takes place on Friday, Aug. 24, beginning with a 6 p.m. rally at McNabb Park. Participants will then march to Confederation Park downtown at 7 p.m.

Community organizer Fae Johnstone, one of the event organizers, calls the march an opportunity to “recognize the pride, the resilience, and the strength of the Two-Spirit, trans, and gender diverse community.”

“As we march we remember the legacy of those that came before us, the space they created, and the voice they’ve given us,” says Johnstone. “We carry this legacy with us in our activism, in our advocacy, in our celebration of the community.”

Undercurrent_Pride weekend_CC_National Progress Party

Photo: CC, National Progress Party.

Among the speakers is Jade Peek, an Urban Mi’kmaq and Black “Scotian” trans woman who serves as a community organizer in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Halifax) where she creates community spaces and artistic and educational hubs. She is known for advocating against anti-Blackness and white supremacy.

Participants will also hear from RJ Jones, a Saulteaux–Cree Two-Spirit, non-binary, and queer multimedia artist and educator, whose focus includes decolonizing approaches to gender and sexuality. Jones’ work in sexual health extend to organizations such as the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Planned Parenthood Ottawa, as a peer mentor and Indigenous Community Developer, respectively.

Pride is more than a party, it’s a reminder of the work still to be done

Undoubtedly the largest and most anticipated event taking place this weekend is the annual Pride parade, on Sunday, Aug. 26 beginning at 1:30 p.m.

The theme for this year’s parade is commUNITY, which is “a tribute to people and organizations locally, nationally and globally who advocate for LGBTQ2+ rights,” according to Davy Sabourin, community relations officer for Capital Pride. “It is a celebration of the power of community.”

Over 150 organizations, including non-profits, embassies, and sports teams will be partaking in the festivities. Special guests include Ottawa-based drag queen China Doll, who is this year’s Capital Pride grand marshal. Ottawa’s first support group by and for trans youth, SAEFTY, will also be marching as this year’s youth marshal.

As Sabourin highlights, the parade is open to all, regardless of sexuality and gender identity. “Pride is a celebration of love in all of its diversity. It’s also an opportunity for people to connect and to come together to strengthen and raise awareness surrounding equality, diversity and inclusion,” he says. “The more people in the streets during Pride, the stronger, the greater, and the more powerful our (solidarity) will be.”

Undercurrent_Pride weekend_CC_Tony Webster

Photo: CC, Tony Webster.

This year’s street festival has expanded with “over 80 community groups, businesses, and organizations on the street (and) 10 bars and restaurants will have extended patios,” says Sabourin. “And if that isn’t enough, there are over 75 community events taking place in the lead to, during, and after the festival.”

The mainstage lineup this year features headliners Bif Naked and Brooke Candy, along with a T-Dance, drag show, and a performance by The Vixen from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

While this year’s parade promises to be the biggest in Ottawa yet, Sabourin reminds participants that Pride is more than a party. “Pride is also a reminder of the great deal of efforts and sacrifices endured by our community to live in a more inclusive society, but also the work that still needs to be done at home and abroad.”

“Pride may be celebratory in many places globally, but it should be reminded that the roots of Pride are inherent to a protest that occurred in 1969, to denounce the human rights abuses suffered by the LGBTQ2+ community—rights that are still being neglected in many parts of the world.”

Check out the full list of official Capital Pride events on their website.

Featured photo credit: CC, gagnonm1993.

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