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'We exist everywhere': West Nipissing to host its first-ever Pride parade in June

Three years after the Municipality of West Nipissing flew the Pride flag for the first time, it and the Pride committee are hosting the first-ever Pride parade later this month.

To kick off June as Pride month, the committee raised the Pride flag at Minnehaha Bay on Thursday afternoon with cheers coming from allies and supporters of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

When Michael Rolling came out as pansexual and transgender, he said he found it hard growing up in a smaller community where there wasn't much representation at the time.

"It's just way harder to find someone like you. You can't find people who really know what you're feeling," Rolling said.

"Be loud, be visible, be queer."

That's why said he felt empowered to speak at West Nipissing’s Pride flag raising.

Michael Rolling, who identifies as pansexual and transgender, speaks at the West Nipissing Pride flag raising. June 1/23 (Eric Taschner/CTV Northern Ontario)

"To people that don't understand: This is just who people are. You just have to start accepting people,” he said.

The Pride flag was first raised in 2020 shortly after the West Nipissing Pride committee formed. That particular flag raising made West Nipissing one of the first smaller northern communities to do so.

"We exist everywhere and, unfortunately, we still need support, protection and allies to speak out with us against discrimination,” said the Pride committee’s president Michel Gervais.

Gervais said there are still many transgender people who continue to face hate, bias and discrimination for their decision to come out.

He said the hate continues to ramp up online on social media platforms.

"It’s unfortunate that there’s so much hate and so much refusal to understand our perspective,” Gervais said.

For the first time this year, the committee is hosting a parade in downtown Sturgeon Falls on June 10.

The committee is working with the municipality on all the details, floats and organizing the route.

"It’s been a goal of ours since 2020," said Gervais.

West Nipissing Mayor Kathleen Rochon spoke for a few minutes at the flag raising expressing council’s support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies.

"We finally have the right place and right time that they can bring their dream of having a Pride parade right here in Sturgeon Falls,” she said.

"We have many citizens who identify as part of the 2SLGBTQS+ community."

For the people who have faced prejudice for being who they are, seeing the flag and knowing a parade is around the corner gives them hope for a brighter future of acceptance.

"There are people in the community that do support people like me," Rolling said smiling. 

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