Gay pride flag flowing in the wind

Gay Pride Flag

Since this week is Edmonton’s Gay Pride Week, I thought I would devote this week’s blog to that subject. I am a big fan of the LGBTQ community for a number of reasons so I wanted to give them this time to talk about them and their story.

My first experience with LGBTQ was in grade school. I had a friend I’ll call Derek (not his real name) that I would play with at recess sometimes. One day he was feeling particularly down and I asked him why. He revealed to me that he was a girl inside and didn’t want to be a boy. I digested this for a moment and, since no one ever told me otherwise, I simply asked him what his name would be if he were a girl. He told me Deanne (the name has been changed). I asked him if he’d like me to call him Deanne. We decided he might get teased so we shortened it to D. I don’t know what happened to him, he moved away and I never saw him again. I hope he finally got to have the body he felt he was supposed to have.

I had no contact with the LGBTQ community until I was a 20 something taking some secretarial classes at a small local college in Edmonton. I was taking a class in Alberta law and we came to the subject of marriage. Marriage, I was told, was a legal union between one man and one woman. My brain put the brakes on and I yelled out, “that’s not fair!” The instructor, amused, asked me what I was talking about. I said that everyone should be able to marry. What if two men or two women were in love? They couldn’t get married? The instructor laughed at me and said that “those people” gave up their rights to have a “normal” life. I got incredibly angry and said that it wasn’t fair to deny someone a right just because they weren’t like you. Several students agreed with me but the discussion was shut down. I was hurt. This was 1989, not 1889. We were changing the world and we couldn’t stop long enough to respect the humanity of others?

A few years later I made my first foray into “The Roost” which, as many Edmontonians remember, was the gay bar in Edmonton. I’d never been there before and my friend, a gay man I was secretly in love with, took me for the evening. When we got there I met the most beautiful woman I’d seen in a while. Since I don’t have permission to use her real name, I’ll call her Rose (also not her real name). Rose was a true beauty in the style of the Hollywood goddesses of the 40s. I was fascinated. Then she revealed to me that she’d been born male. I blurted out how beautiful she was. She then offered to let me feel her breast which she took out of her top and placed in my hand. I murmured something and the smile she gave me melted my shyness away. This woman had all the grace and style I wished I had.

When I came out as pansexual to my friends, the only person who was shocked was me. I thought it was something I’d kept secret but really no one was surprised. I dealt with the jokes about having sex with pans that casual acquaintances make and persevered to be me. I’ve never told my family but they never deserved to know. They didn’t deserve to be involved in that part of my life. When I hinted to them once by suggesting I bring a female date to Christmas, my sister said she’d disown me for “disrespecting Jesus like that.”

This past little while I’ve been slammed by groups who use hate to further their own agenda. Some of these groups use their anger and hate at another group to place blame for their situation. It saddens and sickens me. Using hate to fight hate never makes sense. When I decided to write about my experiences with the LGBTQ community I was struck by the realization that this is one group that has never used anger or hate to gain their rights. The LGBTQ community has always used understanding, tolerance and respect to further their push for equal rights. I think we could all use to follow their example.

This week marks Gay Pride in Edmonton. I am proud to support the LGBTQ community and am grateful for the strides in tolerance and understanding they’ve made. We have come so far but there is so much further to go.