LGBTQ youth lead the celebration at 2018 Calgary Pride Parade

Instead of a single grand marshal at the 2018 Pride Parade, dozens of gay-straight alliance and queer-straight alliance members ushered in the downtown Calgary celebration on Sunday.

Students and teachers in gay-straight alliances acted as this year's grand marshals

This year’s marshals were kids from Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and Queer Straight Alliances (QSAs). It marks Pride’s 28th year in the city. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Instead of a single grand marshal at the 2018 Pride Parade, dozens of gay-straight alliance and queer-straight alliance members ushered in the downtown Calgary celebration on Sunday.

Fourteen-year-old Brooke-Lynn Lambourn said having young people lead the parade is "a great idea."

Lambourn, who identifies as pansexual — which means someone who is attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity —  said while most people understand and are supportive, some people still don't get it.

"I think it's really good that we get to be here and do this," Lambourn said.

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      ​Gay-straight alliances are peer support organizations meant to provide supportive environments and safe spaces for LGBTQ students, and tackle issues like homophobic and transphobic bullying.

      Having students and teachers from GSAs lead the parade was a symbolic decision, as the organizations have been under threat by some parents' rights groups and faith-based schools that have requested a review of the constitutionality of an Alberta law that blocks schools from informing parents if their children have joined such a group.

      An estimated 80,000 Calgarians turned out to watch the parade on Sixth Avenue.

      There were 190 entries this year. Marchers included Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and last year's parade marshal Lois Szabo, who opened one of Western Canada's first gay bars in Calgary back in the 1960s.

      One group notably absent from this year's parade was the United Conservative Party, as the political party's application to march was denied by parade organizers for the second year in a row.

      Instead, Jason Kenney and other UCP members and supporters held their own Pride breakfast at the Garage Sports Bar in Eau Claire Market.

      Pam Ruhland marched with Skipping Stone Foundation — a group that works to empower transgender and gender diverse youth — in support of her two youngest children. 

      "It's awesome that this kind of support is there. At first, when your child says they're transgender, it's like whoa, wait a second, this is a big shift," Ruhland said.

      Sean Ruhland, and his mother Pam, marched with Skipping Stone Foundation, which supports and empowers trans and queer youth. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

      "But the fact that there's so much familial support, so much community support and there's something like Skipping Stone, made it a lot easier."

      She said she was excited to see such a focus on supporting LGBTQ2S youth in this year's parade.

      "I think it means that there will be equal opportunities," she said.

      "Because it wasn't that long ago … at the first Pride rally in Calgary in 1990, young people were wearing masks, because they were afraid of being outed. I think of how we've shifted in that time period, that's less than 30 years."

      "I think it's really important that young people know you are allowed to be different, you are allowed to be this way, it's not shameful," said her son, Sean Ruhland.

      Ruhland plans on becoming a teacher to support other kids in the queer community.

      "Making sure that kids know it's OK is so incredibly important."


      With files from Terri Trembath