This blog post was written by Peg Hoffman, Social Issues Committee Volunteer at the Women’s Centre
“Pride and Prejudice”
Yes! These three words together form the title of writer Jane Austen’s arguably best novel, first published in 1813. But, this blog is not a belated literary review. These words taken together somewhat describe why Calgary, and many communities in other parts of the world, celebrate Gay “Pride” annually with parades, film festivals, discussion groups, art displays, musical performances, dances, and whatever else, to heighten awareness of and celebrate the existence, value and rights of those who identify as LGBTQA2S+. This takes place perhaps to dispel “Prejudice” in all its hurtful forms.
As with many other of society’s minority groups, “Prejudice,” (the other significant word in Austen’s title), also can be experienced in many subtle and not so subtle ways in the everyday lives of women who identify in this community. According to surveys conducted at the Women’s Centre, nearly 100% of the women-identified individuals who use the Centre feel it is a safe place for them. As a Women’s Centre volunteer who identifies as lesbian, there have been many times when there have been opportunities for me to welcome another lesbian who has just moved to Calgary, and who has found the Women’s Centre. A quick offer of a coffee/tea and a gesture to sit down and chat about what Calgary is about and how it “treats its lesbians” (a true question that has been asked) can develop further into a great discussion about all the wonderful services offered at the Women’s Centre, as well an act that can assist a newcomer in navigating the myriad of things she faces in her move to a new, rather big, city.
The Women’s Centre is a busy place both inside and “out.” Often, several staff and volunteers will join with other interested women who use the Centre, and attend the Pride Parade route together and have a great time! If you check out Calgary Pride’s website at calgarypride.ca, “Pride Week 2018” is scheduled from Aug. 24th to Sept. 3rd. Events include, Calgary’s Rainbow Railroad Station, Queer Country Line Dancing, and many other celebratory opportunities culminating, of course, with the ever growing and diversifying, always extremely colourful and FUN “Pride Parade” held on Sunday Sept. 2nd starting at 11:00am. The route’s location begins at 350- 6th Ave. S.E. This year is Calgary’s 28th Pride. In recent years, as many as 60,000 people have lined the route, cheering, dancing, singing, hugging… enjoying the “joy” of being celebrated just for being you, however you identify. What a concept, hey?
Calgary’s first “Dyke March” was held in 2010. At the time, there was debate about the need for such an event. Didn’t “Gay Pride” cover it all? Well, since that time, the “Dyke March” has morphed into the “Treaty 7 Dyke and Trans March” so it seems that not all was “covered.” Check out Calgary’s Dyke and Trans March for any current event information.
Throughout the year, the WC offers free workshops on all kinds of timely topics. Recently, 50 or so women attended a session on dealing with the experience of being a Trans woman in Calgary. It was very favourably received.
On of my first encounters with the Centre, over 20 years ago, my partner and I attended a Legal Advice Clinic to get advice on our rights as a lesbian, common-law couple (this was before same-sex marriage was legalized). We were blown away by how helpful the lawyer was and, the session was FREE too!
In all services offered, the staff and volunteers at the Women’s Centre strive to maintain a safe, welcoming and respectful space for anyone who identifies as a woman. It is a place that is free from discrimination, harassment, bullying or harm of any kind, a place where you can just “do you,” whether it’s during Pride Week or any other time of the year.