PEI

Rural Pride picnic could be 'like a sigh of relief,' say organizers

The organizers of a Pride picnic in Montague this weekend are hopeful that the event will show that rural P.E.I. is ready to take the next step in accepting the LGBTQ community.

‘It just really wasn't visible. It wasn't normalized. It wasn't seen.’

Matthew Beck and Rachel Collier grew up in rural P.E.I., moved away to get a better understanding of themselves in more accepting communities, and came back to a province that had changed. (Submitted by Matthew Beck)

The organizers of a Pride picnic in Montague this weekend are hopeful that the event will show that rural P.E.I. is ready to take the next step in accepting the LGBTQ community.

"To see a group of allies in a rural area I think would mean a lot to a lot of people. It may just be like a sigh of relief," said Rachel Collier.

"OK, like, there are people out there who really actively would accept me."

Both Collier and co-organizer Matthew Beck grew up in rural P.E.I., moved away to get a better understanding of themselves in more accepting communities, and came back to a province that had changed, and which they hope can change more.

"I just didn't feel like I was surrounded by anybody who understood me," said Beck about moving away.

"When I moved to Halifax, I finally felt the sense of community. And I find that it's kind of sad that we don't really have that on P.E.I."

'It should not be that way'

His family was supportive, he said, and his grandfather defended him in the community, but his grandfather also suggested to him that he might be happier living in a city in another province.

Pride flags are more likely to fly in rural P.E.I. now than even just a few years ago. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"It should not be that way. That was kind of the reaction my brother and I had," said Beck.

"It just really wasn't visible. It wasn't normalized. It wasn't seen," added Collier.

"And so it took me a long time to realize that, like, to come to terms with who I actually am."

Collier lived abroad for eight years. When she was in her late 20s she received a job offer back in rural P.E.I. It was a job she knew she would love, but she hesitated. She was concerned about how she and her partner would be accepted.

Broader acceptance needed

Beck noted it was only a few years ago that rural P.E.I. communities were refusing to fly Pride flags, but now they are everywhere.

Beck said he now feels relatively comfortable in Montague, but the community still has room to improve on its acceptance of people.

"[It's] even harder for people out there who are trans trying to manoeuvre their way around our society," he said.

"It's more accepted for people like me than it is for people of colour." 

Gathering stories, making plans

Collier and Beck see the picnic as a way to bring people together to exchange ideas to make those improvements.

"I don't think I've seen more than three rural queer people in a room before," said Collier.

"I think that it will be interesting just to see, to network, and see, you know, what was your experience, what does need to be improved, based on a larger group of voices?"

The Rural Pride P.E.I. Never Ends Picnic is Sunday at 1 p.m. on the waterfront. It is an informal event, with people bringing their own food, but you are asked to register due to public health precautions.

More information is available on the Rural Pride P.E.I. Never Ends Facebook page.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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