Saskatoon·Point of View

Loving openly: sharing Pride at an intersection of identities

"I needed to see other queer people in order to see myself."

'I needed to see other queer people in order to see myself'

Omayra Issa is a CBC journalist in Saskatoon. This weekend she will be the first gay, immigrant, black woman to host the main stage at Saskatoon Pride. (Tenille Campbell​)

When I went to my first Pride parade, I didn't know any queer people who looked like me. 

Black. 

Black and female. 

Black, female and an African immigrant. 

Black, female and an African immigrant from a Muslim country.

I have always lived at a crossroads, an intersection of identities. I live not only on the margins of mainstream Canadian society, but also on the margins of the broader gay community.

It means that often I don't see myself reflected in Saskatchewan, even in pride spaces.

I know I'm not the only one. Black, brown, and two-spirit Indigenous folks don't often see themselves represented in mainstream pride spaces either. 

But things are shifting.

'I didn't know what to do'

My first pride event was 10 years ago. I was a 22-year-old woman trying to come out to herself.

I needed to see other queer people in order to see myself.

I mustered all my courage and went to the Edmonton Pride parade by myself.

There was a large mass of bodies. I didn't know if I was allowed to walk in the parade. 

So I just stood there.

Loving safely, being visible and the ability to speak one's truth are still privileges too few people in this world enjoy.- Omayra Issa

I remained on the sidewalk and watched the sea of people dancing freely in neon-coloured clothes. The music was pumping. People were smiling, laughing and hugging each other. It seemed the city didn't house a sad soul that day.

I had never seen anything like it before. Queer people and those that love them had formed a community of joy and freedom that afternoon.

Everyone except for me. I didn't know what to do. 

So I just stood there.

I didn't know anybody. I didn't feel I belonged, even in a space of pride that was intended to welcome people like me.

I was there for thirty minutes. I left as I had arrived. 

By myself.

Love and embrace

I learned from my grandmother how to persevere.

Over the last decade, I have made very important decisions about my life and those close to me. 

I have fully come out to myself, my family, my coworkers and my communities. I have married the love of my life.

I also know that loving safely, being visible and the ability to speak one's truth are still privileges too few people in this world enjoy.

When Pride Saskatoon asked me to be part of one of its main events, I knew I had to say yes for all the people who look like me but don't see themselves represented.

I'm excited and hopeful because for the first time in its 26 years of existence, Saskatoon Pride will have a gay, immigrant, black woman host its main stage. 

I believe that such a moment can only build bridges. I am proud to be part of writing history in this province.

Hopeful for the future

As a reporter with the Canadian public broadcaster, I know that I occupy various spaces of privilege.

Though it can prove to be challenging to be all that is me, it is also in this moment and for these reasons an immeasurable gift.

Loving openly and living in a space of hope is a significant choice for me.

This year, I will walk in the Saskatoon Pride parade along with my wife, my chosen community and many colleagues from CBC/Radio-Canada.

Maybe someone standing on the sidewalk will see me and join.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Omayra Issa

Journalist

Omayra Issa is a senior reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. She has reported in several Canadian cities, including Saskatoon and Ottawa. @OmayraIssa

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