LGBT soldiers to be honoured with rainbow wreath in Calgary
Ron Eberly will lay a wreath at the Central Memorial Park cenotaph dressed as his persona, Mz. Rhonda
A local gay rights activist will lay a rainbow-coloured wreath during the Remembrance Day ceremonies at Calgary's Central Memorial Park to honour LGBT soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars.
"It's very important because gay people fought in the world wars and were not able to be themselves," Ron Eberly told the Calgary Eyeopener.
Eberly will lay the wreath at the Cenotaph dressed in drag, as his persona, Mz. Rhonda.
The ceremony will see dozens of wreaths laid by military and community leaders.
He worked with staff from Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr's office to arrange laying the wreath.
"The original plan was that we would host our own ceremony at Poppy Plaza, but the timeframe ran out to get a permit for an event like that, so it was his staff who thought it would be a bright idea on a service that was already in planning," he said.
Legion officials responded with, "a little bit of mixed feelings," when the request came in, he said.
"I think it's just because they're from a different generation," he added.
"And they did not know how I would be presenting myself. Once we got that all worked out, the general comment… was that I have every right to be there to lay a wreath."
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This is not making a political statement... I am there to remember those who did not have a voice during the war who were gay and lesbian.- Mz. Rhonda
There is no way to know how many soldiers who served in the First and Second World War were gay.
"But when you consider how many people served in both of those wars, it had to be in the thousands," he said.
"Because it's still very much a man's world in the military, we need to remember that gay lives were lost as well and we need to celebrate the work they did for us. This is not making a political statement. This is appearing as Mz. Rhonda, an activist, dressed in black because it is a serious ceremony. I am there not to cause trouble or make light of the ceremony. I am there to remember those who did not have a voice during the war who were gay and lesbian.
"And tomorrow they are going to be honoured for the very first time, as far as I know, in Canada. I haven't heard of anywhere where a wreath has been laid with the rainbow ribbon or the letters [LGBT]."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener