Thousands mark P.E.I. Pride at parade in Charlottetown
'I can say it is by far the best Pride Parade I have attended'
Thousands of Islanders gathered in downtown Charlottetown on Saturday for the P.E.I. Pride parade.
The event marked 25 years since the first Pride march on the Island in 1994.
There were fewer than 100 participants in that first march. It took four years of marching before the province prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in P.E.I.'s Human Rights Act in 1998.
On Saturday, people walked, rode bikes, drove cars, trucks and vans and rolled floats through downtown Charlottetown to celebrate sexual diversity.
Many waved the Pride flag as the celebration toured the city. It was in stark contrast to the first march, when participants were met with homophobic slurs.
There was none of that on Saturday, said parade organizers with Pride P.E.I.
"I can say it is by far the best Pride parade I have attended," said Andrea MacPherson, director of advocacy with Pride P.E.I.
Diversity of celebration
She said this year there was a lot more variety in what people were celebrating.
"A lot of people are now stepping out, like for example with the P.E.I. Trans Network, of really saying this is some of the other marginalized people that we're still fighting for."
MacPherson said there are many people on the Island who aren't sure they can be who they are, or maybe they think they aren't "gay enough" to come out.
"We need to celebrate that if you think you are, you probably are, and you can celebrate that. It doesn't matter if you're a little bit gay or a lot trans."
Represents whole Island
Pride P.E.I. is unique because it represents the LGBTQ community in the entire province.
Other Pride organizations across Canada sometimes represent an entire city, said Scott Lester, director of communications for Pride P.E.I.
He said the parade in Charlottetown has a big turnout, but some smaller communities on P.E.I. don't celebrate, and that can make members of that community feel unwelcome.
"That's really one of the goals over the next 25 years, and sooner, said MacPherson. "We want to make this more than just [Charlottetown] because we're Pride for all of P.E.I."
The P.E.I. Pride Parade is making its way through Charlottetown. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PeiPride25?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PeiPride25</a> <a href="https://t.co/myY8uPqPzX">pic.twitter.com/myY8uPqPzX</a>—@CBCPEI
Organizers counted more than 3,000 people at the parade, Lester said.
"I thought it was great we had over 65 groups, I think, that were registered in the parade."
Many Island organizations and institutions took part in the parade such as UPEI, PEER Alliance, Island EMS, the P.E.I. Humane Society and Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.
All three Island parties sitting in the legislature also had representation at the parade.
Charlottetown resident Chelsea Perry participated for the first time. She said people were "enthusiastic and happy."
"This is my first year out at college and university where I have kind of been able to really join in and celebrate with everyone else," she said.
Perry actually marched in the parade this year. She works for the Island's PC Party, which entered a float.
"It's people loving other people and I think that should be celebrated," she said.
Though the parade is a staple of the P.E.I Pride festivities, MacPherson said there are still many events to attend before the end of the month.