Love, Honour, and Equality Under the Midnight Sun

Just when you think Yukon Pride is all about the party, the world reminds you that it’s not.

Though the cheery posters and advertisements for 24+ Hours of Funky Gaylight promise a party not to be missed, they were created months before the shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando reiterated there are still many miles in the march towards solidarity and understanding.

For organizer Stephanie Hammond, knowing that there are people still suffering is what keeps the event alive.

“Every year, I ask myself, ‘Do we really need Pride this year?’” Hammond says.

But every year, she is reminded that people still live with hatred.

“Integral to Pride celebrations is solidarity with those who experience violence for loving who they love, who have lost their lives, who live in fear, who live in darkness, who choose not to live. On a global scale and locally.”

While the Yukon is willing to party in the name of LGBT culture, Hammond says that we have far to go before LGBT rights — in particular trans rights — are fully recognized in culture and in law.

It’s the personal stories of people who are on their journey of self-identity for whom Pride becomes a watershed event that strikes at Hammond’s heart.

“Last year, there was a student at the dance who had just started to identify as a woman and was wearing makeup for the first time, being surrounded and supported by friends. It’s those moments that give me a kick for the next year.”

While Yukon Pride 2016 will be perhaps a more sombre and urgent affair than ever, it will still be a celebration of strength and perseverance. The event kicks off on Saturday with a parade, followed by a picnic, a dance and the next day a pride paddle down the Yukon River.

The dance will feature Queer as Funk, a high energy dance band from Vancouver. Their repertoire ranges from funk, soul and motown from the 60s and 70s to more current favourites from the likes of Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars.

The dance takes place in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and everyone is welcome. “Pride is about celebrating diversity of all kinds. It’s a place where everyone can celebrate themselves for their wonderful uniqueness,” Hammond says. “This is important for everyone, but especially for youth or vulnerable people who might not feel that way in real life. Pride can give them a boost and they can feel good and maybe that will hold them through to the next event.”

People who are not members of the LGBT communities are welcome, too. The parade is often largely supported by allies to the LGBT communities.

“There are politicians, of course, but also unions, religious communities and groups and people that want to be part of that message of inclusivity.”

Hammond was surprised when people told her they’ve not attended Pride events in the past because they feared intruding on the LGBT community.

There is no time like to the present to show unity and support for the LGBT community.

“Please come,” she urges. “We will dance and march and sing, absolutely. But we will dance and sing and march toward the world we want to create.”

The parade will launch from the United Church at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, followed by a picnic at 2 p.m. at Rotary Peace Park. The dance starts at 8 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. The Pride Paddle leaves from Rotary Peace Park at 12 p.m. on Sunday, June 26.

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