The Goat reached out to two young people who grew up in Valemount to submit a reflection for Pride month.

By Zach Schneider, a tech-savvy entrepreneur who grew up as a gay kid in his hometown of Valemount

I think a lot of people forget where and how LGBTQ+ Pride started. Today, we’re fortunate enough to enjoy pride month with happiness and excitement.

However, the first pride was a riot. A riot that started in June at the Stonewall Inn in New York, and resulted in multiple days of protests against police raids and persecution. In light of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, I think we’re lucky as Canadians to live in this country. We’re far from perfect, there’s still work to be done towards eliminating homophobia, racism, and other social injustices.

Something that people who aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community might be wondering is “How do I be an ally?” To start, someone that identifies as something other than heterosexual isn’t necessarily going to be attracted to you, so toss aside those assumptions and fears (and if it does come up, just respectfully decline).

Another way to be a better ally is to recognize your privilege (especially when in our spaces). Everyday things like holding hands in public, donating blood, and feeling safe walking home at night are not things that every LGBTQ+ person can do even today.

Stand strong
As an ally, take a stand against hate. You probably know someone in your life who’s gay, bisexual, transgender, etc., so consider that the next time someone says “that’s so gay” to insult or describe. I’m not an adjective, just a person.

Pride’s not just a great party
Personally, I think straight cisgendered people should be welcome at pride events; it’s hypocritical for our community to ban a group based entirely on sexuality.

However, something that is becoming more common is for “allies” to come to pride just for entertainment and as an excuse to party. We aren’t there celebrating our culture and overcoming adversity for your entertainment. Simply, pride is not for straight cisgendered people, but you’re welcome to celebrate with us as an ally. This all ties into my last piece of advice for being a better ally. If someone wants to be a better ally, they have to put in the work if they want to enjoy pride with us (because let’s face it, we are good at throwing a party). The LGBTQ+ community uses “ally” in the truest sense of the word. Take a stand against hate, not just during pride month, and not just for LGBTQ+ issues.

Isolation proven
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, most in-person pride celebrations are being canceled. I like to think that most LGBTQ+ people have experienced difficult times not unlike this before. We’re resilient. Many of us are already used to not being able to go out and live our lives like our heterosexual counterparts, and so the precautions like social distancing and staying at home aren’t something that took much getting used to.

Words of encouragement
It really does get better. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s true. Just look at this year alone, the Canadian government criminalized conversion therapy and the American Supreme Court made a long-awaited ruling protecting LGBTQ employees. Those are big decisions and even smaller towns like ours will see the lasting effects. If you’re LGBTQ and feeling isolated in Valemount, you’re not alone. It can be tough being known as the only gay person in school or trying to hide yourself to avoid that label at all costs. Find pride in yourself, find something you’re good at and work hard, inspire change in your community, and then change the world.