Saskatchewan

Pride festival organizers hear pushback on 'inappropriate' choice for grand marshal

While Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan had been picked to be this year’s Regina Pride grand marshal, that decision saw some pushback from members of the city’s LGBT community, who came out to a town hall meeting on Wednesday night to voice their misgivings.

Members of LGBT community voice feelings on choice of Seahawks punter Jon Ryan as leader of parade

The Queen City Pride Parade is set to take place June 16, with Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, who is from Regina, leading as grand marshal. However, some members of the LGBT community have spoken out about the decision to choose a heterosexual male as the leader for the annual parade. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

While Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan had been picked to be this year's Regina Pride grand marshal, that decision saw some pushback from members of the city's LGBT community, who came out to a town hall meeting on Wednesday night to voice their misgivings.

"To me, the marshal of a Pride parade should be a queer person," said Julie Gobeil, one of those attending the meeting at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre. "I don't think you would have a Trans Pride with a cis-person marshalling, or an Indigenous pride with a white person marshalling.

"It's just inappropriate, I think."

Ryan was born and raised Regina and has played for the Seahawks since 2008. He has also spoken out against homophobia on more than one occasion, tweeting out support after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando and calling out homophobia amongst fans.

Dan Shier, co-chair of Regina Pride, had earlier pointed to Ryan's work as an ally as a reason why he was asked to be a marshal.

"Jon's connection to Regina and being a public figure in the world of professional sports is a big reason why we wanted [him] to do this," he explained in an earlier interview.

As grand marshal, Ryan will lead the June 16 parade as it makes through downtown Regina streets alongside members of AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan, who are being highlighted for their work in the community.

I think it was a mistake and an oversight.- Julie Gobeil on the choice of parade marshal

While APSS is the other marshal for the parade, Gobeil said that she felt their work and their role in the parade has been "totally overshadowed" by Ryan's inclusion. 

"I don't necessarily place the blame on any specific person. I think it was a mistake and an oversight," she said, noting that the decision has left her on the fence about whether or not she will attend the parade, while others said they would not attend with Ryan leading as marshal.

Gobeil said she was glad to see the open-mindedness of the Pride festival organizers to various viewpoints, and the fact that there was a respectful dialogue during the evening.

"It was a really good conversation," she said. "I think, whether it's this year or next year, change is for sure going to be made."

'Pride in sports' grand marshal entry

Shier said the town hall gave people a chance to talk to Pride organizers face-to-face. 

"We're always conscious of how our community is feeling, and we wanted to provide community with a platform and a space to be vocal, and share thoughts and opinions," he said. 

Organizers shared a statement following the meeting, saying that at the meeting, they heard more about the different ways the choice of parade marshal had impacted members of the LGBT community. 

"Organizers acknowledge that this pain and hurt was caused by this decision and apologize for causing it," the statement said. 

While others in the community have supported Ryan's selection as marshal, Pride organizers said they wanted to "respect and raise up the marginalized voices of our community who have traditionally been silenced or unheard."

The festival announced it would invite athletes, teams, and sports organizations that are part of, or represent, the gender and sexually diverse community to take part in a "Pride in Sports" grand marshal entry in the Queen City Pride Parade.

"This additional honorary entry serves to represent the overall goal of raising the profile of LGBTQ athletes in our community — where sports have traditionally been a difficult space for members of our community to feel comfortable and safe in," reads the statement. 

The full statement can be read here.

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