The month of June is significant for a lot of reasons. Students across the country are preparing for summer break, summer is finally here to stay, and it’s Pride Month – a celebration of love and acceptance focused on bringing equality to those who identify with the LGBTQ2S+ community.
In Edmonton, there is one organization that has represented the city’s LGBTQ2S+ population for half a century. The Edmonton Pride Centre was first founded in 1971 and is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Dawn Carter, executive director of the Pride Centre, said the organization began with University of Alberta students.
“It was a U of A student organization and over the years it evolved,” said Carter. “We had several main changes, acquired a building, and here we are today in a space that we are actually renovating right now.”
The Pride Centre offers a variety of programs to people within the community. The pandemic has limited the centre’s ability to offer all of their services, but Carter said they have not stopped working to help those in need.
“We had the choice to close the doors and hunker down during the pandemic, but we realized that our community members still needed to have access to our services,” said Carter. “Our staff works during the week to take care of our community members.”
As for specific services, the list is quite long. The Pride Centre’s primary focus is to help those within the LGBTQ2S+ community who are struggling with their sexuality. They also support other groups, ranging from refugees to people who suffer from addictions.
“We see it as a hub for the LGBTQ2S+ community here in the city. What we do really well is information and referrals,” said Carter. “If people want to be connected to resources that can help them out, we have an extensive resource list that we can refer to people to.”
“Normally we have a vast number of community groups working within the centre run by volunteers, but most of those are on hiatus right now (due to COVID-19). What we do have still going on is our youth programming on Wednesday nights called ‘Queer out’ for queer and gender diverse youth for ages 13 to 24. Our newcomer and refugee group is facilitated through the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, and the Pride Centre has been meeting once a week for the last four years.”
The Pride Centre has also established free counselling services to help people who have struggled with isolation and pandemic-related issues.
“We do offer free counselling sessions in partnership with the Family Centre and that is on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Carter. “People have the option to connect by email or do a Zoom chat or a phone call free of charge with a Family Centre counsellor.”
As for events specific to Pride Month, there isn’t too much to talk about. Despite their name, the Pride Centre is not responsible for setting up popular events such as the Pride Parade. Even if they were, the reality of the pandemic would make it difficult to pull off. Instead, they plan on focusing on their own events this month.
“We did have our Queer Prom on hiatus and normally that is an in-person event, but we decided to do it virtually on June 12,” said Carter. “There will be special guests appearing. Niuboi will be our headline performer that day.”
“We have our escape room in partnership with Bent Arrow on June 15, which will be virtual. We have an AGA pride panel. We partnered up with the Art Gallery of Alberta to feature some queer artists in the community who actually have a show going on at the gallery. There will also be a drag performance by Lady Tenderflake on June 30.”
There are plenty of fun events for Edmonton’s queer community to attend in a safe and supportive environment. As we march on through the pandemic there is hope these events can eventually be in-person as they were initially meant to be. Carter said the Pride Centre is anxious to get back to normal as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Normally, it’s really busy in the centre. Generally our hours are from 12 p.m. until 7 p.m. and there are different community groups in the space, people can just drop in and hang out in our nice and warm reception area,” said Carter. “We really are looking forward to getting back to those daysm but of course doing that with caution and care.”
For more information on the Pride Centre of Edmonton you can visit their website at www.pridecentreofedmonton.ca