Turning over a new leaf: Strathroy to host Middlesex County's first pride event
Celebrations will kick off with a live flag-raising ceremony at town hall before moving to online events
Strathroy is hosting Middlesex County's first Pride celebration Saturday, a significant turning point for the rural area's LGBTQ+ community.
"Everybody feels like they have to move to big cities in order to feel connected to people, to your tribe, to your community and that's not necessarily how it needs to be," said Frank Emanuele, one of the organizers behind Strathroy's Pride event.
Emanuele and his husband moved to Strathroy two years ago from Toronto. And while living in the big city, he remembers most of Pride attendees being from out of town.
But he believes there's something to gain from events hosted in smaller communities.
"Funny enough, you can reach more people and have more meaningful connections in smaller towns," said Emanuele.
"In the short time we've been here, we've made more connections with other families than we have in bigger cities."
Since announcing Middlesex County's first pride, organizers have received tokens of appreciation from the community.
A local woman and her wife reached out to organizers to express their gratitude, "She's been living in Strathroy for 15 years with her wife and she has never met another queer person," said Emanuele.
Emanuele has since prioritized bringing more events like Strathroy Pride to the Conservative town.
Giving queer youth a safe space
As a parent of two, Emanuele hopes to provide queer youth a safe space.
"My biggest thing is to just provide queer youth a space. You know we are here and we're living our life in a genuine positive way and that it's okay. It's okay to do this in small towns."
He believes education is key to building a welcoming community.
"One of our speaker panel members is a mom of an intersex teen and somebody asked, 'well what is intersex?'"
Emanuele was glad to see people seeking out that information.
"We want people to feel that curiosity and learn the proper terminology and the proper ways to learn about this," he said.
Saturday's Pride celebrations will begin with a live flag-raising ceremony at Strathroy's town hall. The event then moves to online-only events, including drag queen story time, a musical performance and a speaker's panel featuring a gay physician, a two-spirited individual, an intersex family and a transgender family.
The event is hosted by the Rainbow Optimist of Southwestern Ontario, an organization dedicated to promoting inclusion and diversity in rural communities to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ youth.
Strathroy Pride event schedule:
- 10 a.m. - Live flag-raising at town hall, followed by live reading of the book I am Jazz
- 11 a.m. - The Saidat show
- 12 p.m. - Drag queen storytime with Lita and Miss Shaneen
- 1 p.m. - Singer songwriter Victor Quinlan performs
- 2 p.m. - Strathroy Pride speaker's panel
Events will be broadcast live on Facebook.