Once again, Pride Week has come and gone. This year, the event was held primarily online but with some hybrid components offered at the NAIT campus. The event was organized by NorthSide Pride, a collection of post-secondary education institutions in the city, including MacEwan University, and it ran from March 7 to 11. Multiple panels and activities ran every day. The online focus of the event made it accessible for anyone with health concerns under the current COVID circumstances, and there were ASL interpreters presenting as well.
Pride Week has become a large and colourful yearly celebration and it’s easy to get caught up in the fanfare. However, it’s important to remember the true purpose of Pride Week as well. Homosexuality was not decriminalized in Canada until 1969, according to an article on the history of Canadian Pride from queerevents.ca, meaning that it’s a much more recent social development than some of us may be conscious of. The article notes that Canada’s first Pride Week emerged in 1973 as a showcase of LGBTQ+ art and media, as well as a collective rally for the rights of the community. This week is one of celebration, yes, but also one of social change and important conversations.
This year’s event channeled both the celebration and the serious, and offered a mix of
fun and uplifting activities, as well as enlightening panel discussions around the perception and existence of different groups and their rights.
I started day one by attending a panel discussion on cultivating queer spaces, followed by a
presentation on the concept of coddling. The panel discussion brought up key considerations
relevant to students, such as the importance of gender-neutral washrooms, and private, low-stress options for updating school ID information like gender. Special attention was given to the lack of safe, queer spaces and events geared towards youth and the challenges the
LGBTQ+ community faces when it comes to interacting with youth. This need for safe spaces
was discussed further in the coddling panel, as these spaces are often reduced in impact and accused of coddling individuals. The comparison to coddling was one of the misconceptions about safe spaces addressed, alongside various truths as well.
Day two had a more interactive theme and featured rainbow Zumba and rainbow pizza making among a few other panels. Zumba was offered both online and in-person at NAIT and featured energetic and confidence-boosting songs like “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga. The pizza night recipe was available ahead of time and packed with veggies — a great simple option for students tuning in.
The third day’s discussion on the art of burlesque was informative for newcomers to the genre, such as myself. Attendees were encouraged to ask questions, and the panel of performers
including Holly Von Sinn, Luna LaPearl/Lucian LaPearl and other local burlesque professionals, were extremely welcoming. The importance of safety and safe spaces emerged as an important concept in this panel, and the presenters mentioned the lack of access to queer-friendly venues to perform in. Venue owners need to be properly versed in the respect, care, and considerations necessary during those performances, and ensure that their staff are too.
One of the most eye-opening panels I attended was “Hiding in the Binary,” a well-explained an
accessible presentation on how computers read data and what that means for us when we are trying to measure data on humanity, and gender especially. The obvious issue that comes to mind is how to relate multiple identities into data a computer would understand; however more subtle issues such as whether we can protect that data once we have it, and if we even need it in the first place, also need to be considered. As our culture and society evolve, maybe the way we collect data should as well.
Pride Week ended with a pop this year, as the final day featured a virtual drag and burlesque
show including some of the panelists we got to speak with like Von Sinn, who gave us a saucy
and energetic burlesque performance. Audrina Linn served us comedy and drama, and Voula
Callas transported us back to the speakeasy days with a cute and sassy flapper-like routine. The production was energetic and engaging despite the challenges of an online format and acted as a great opportunity for students to see what may have been their first performance of that kind.
There were many panels I was not fortunate enough to attend, including a Two-Spirit round
table, a discussion on disability and dating in the queer space, and transexual and bisexualfocused events. It was a well-rounded week of activities with a diverse makeup of presenters and panelists, including BIPOC and plus-sized representation. If you want to experience NorthSide Pride Week 2022 for yourself and didn’t get the chance to attend the events live, the organizers will be releasing recordings of the events here very soon.
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