Thunder Bay 'is a great place to be gay'

Leaders of Thunder Bay's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities say Kathleen Wynne's victory in Thursday's Ontario election is another milestone for their groups — and for Canada.

Re-election of Canada's first openly-gay premier celebrated at weekend Pride celebrations

Leaders of Thunder Bay's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities say Kathleen Wynne's victory in Thursday's election is another milestone for their groups — and for Canada.

Speaking at this past weekend's Pride celebrations, Thunder Pride co-chair Donna Nagy said it's fantastic to see an openly gay premier re-elected with a majority Liberal government in Ontario.

"It's so nice to have a role model out there that somebody can follow,” she said.

“And celebrating it today? Excellent.  [I] couldn't be happier."

Thunder Pride participant Tanya Ross said it feels wonderful to live in a province where acceptance of the community is so widespread.

“It kind of makes you feel like everything is possible.  Anything is possible."

She added she doesn't think sexual orientation is an issue for most people in Thunder Bay.

“I think we have a warm, accepting community, and I think it's a great place to be gay." 

'We're all one'

Wynne's sexual orientation was never made an issue during the election campaign in Thunder Bay, which saw Liberal incumbents Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle returned to office.

Participants cheered when Thunder Bay Pride organizer Scott Gale acknowledged Wynne's milestone.

Gale said seeing Wynne stand on stage with her lesbian partner evoked similar feelings to the ones he felt two years ago, when the Rev. Gary Patterson became the first openly-gay moderator of the United Church of Canada and was joined on-stage by his partner.

"[There was] a similar sense of real happiness, of real joy, that anyone can seek public office and that we're all one."

Festival vendor Katie Hughdie said she also felt proud on Thursday night when Wynne's partner joined her on-stage during her victory speech.

"My mom is a lesbian.  I was raised with two moms.  And to have that opportunity to be in public and to be accepted and celebrated is really special,” she said.

Keeping the faith

Jen Metcalfe recalled protesting the Liberal party back in 1994, after then-leader Lyn McLeod withdrew the party's support for Bill 167, the NDP government's bill to give equal rights to same-sex couples.

"Now the leader of that party is an openly gay and elected premier of Ontario. So it's quite the flip, and I'm sure many people's heads are spinning. But I say, 'go team!'" 

Even though it was legal to engage in job discrimination against lesbians, gays and bisexuals as recently as 1992, community members at Thunder Bay's Pride celebration  said they anticipated they'd see a gay premier in their lifetime.

"I know the lesbians before me had a harder road, but it's always been evolving,”  said Holly Maki.

“So I guess a little part of me had faith that it was going to evolve to this point."

Others at the Pride festival called Wynne's election bittersweet. Robert Hampsey said he respected Wynne, but he didn't support her political party.

"It's kind of mixed for me.  As a person I really like her and I respect her.  As an out queer person?  Utmost respect.  The party politics, I'm a little reserved on."

Watch video of the parade below:

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