Before we look at the fabulous ways you can celebrate Pride, this August, in the Yukon with Queer Yukon Society (QYS), let’s recap some of the many things QYS has been doing to help make the Yukon a more-inclusive place.
It’s been a busy two years, with many changes. “QYS has been adapting to the evolving needs of the community, engaging in advocacy work and (like all of us) dealing with shifts in public-health measures regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while growing exponentially, expanding staff and laying the foundations for future programs and events,” said QYS communications manager, Mira Sirois.
I highly recommend checking out the “News” page on the QYS website, where you can experience the perspective and clarity QYS generously works to bring to the complexities of our world. In general, QYS offers safer spaces, resources, support online and in person, as well as programming and community connection to 2SLGBTQIA+ Yukoners—all while adapting to recent organizational changes!
Some changes have been bittersweet, such as saying goodbye to the executive director, Joe Wickenhauser. Wickenhauser joined Queer Yukon in 2020 as QYS’s first permanent employee. Since then, as the QYS communications manager, Sirois said, “He [Wickenhauser] tirelessly led the organization through a tremendous transformation, from an all-volunteer Pride committee, to an established service-providing organization.”
Other changes have been groundbreaking. Recognizing the need for safer spaces to gather, access resources and connect, QYS has been renovating their new inclusive drop-in community space in downtown Whitehorse. As you can see in the photos, here, the space is a beautiful addition to the Yukon’s 2SLGBTQIA+ network. For hours and other details, check out the QYS website: queeryukon.com. The space opened on August 1.
Which brings us to August—Pride month in the Yukon. With many places celebrating Pride, annually, in June, Sirois noted that “Queer Yukon joins Fierté Montréal, Capital Pride (Ottawa), Calgary Pride, and others across Canada, in holding a late-summer Pride festival.
“We recognize that June is still a very-important month for our community, and we encouraged community members to celebrate Pride Month and Indigenous History Month, in ways that felt meaningful to them, before joining us in August for the public celebration and events.
He added, “This year’s Pride parade is a bit of a smaller scale than we would normally plan, mostly because of the push to prepare the community space for opening. It will be much more like a march than a parade because we won’t be doing any floats this time.”
A perfect pre-Pride march event is the sign-making gathering on August 19 at the QYS community space. Sirois encourages people to come make their signs together. She said, “The sign-making event is open to community members to come in and, if they want, make some signs with us. It’s totally anonymous.”
With your freshly made sign, you can join the march on Saturday, August 20, at 12 p.m., beginning at the Totem Pole (Main and Front streets in downtown Whitehorse) and ending at Shipyard’s Park. The celebrations will continue after the march and include a free community barbecue from 2–6 p.m. and … wait for it … a kickball game dubbed as “Burlesque versus Drag Community”. Start practicing now and, yes, plan your outfit!
On Saturday, August 27 (time TBA), folks in Watson Lake can join the Painting with Pride event. Sirois explained, “It’s a community get-together where we paint together. We provide the supplies, such as watercolour, acrylics, brushes, canvases, easels, etc., so people can paint together and just have fun.” The Watson Lake march will be hosted on Saturday, August 13 (time TBA), from Belleview to Wye Lake Park.
I might be most excited about the Square Dancing by the River event in Dawson City on Friday, August 26 (time TBA). You can celebrate while giving a nod to the history of square dancing and dance gatherings in the territory. Dawson City Pride celebrations also include live music and performances by Local Boy and Keen on Friday, August 19. Keep an eye on the QYS website and Facebook for more details.
On a broader note, I had the chance to ask Sirois what she would say is changing in the Yukon for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. She reflected, “I think it’s always hard to say because it’s very time-specific and situational. I think community can change pretty quickly, especially these days. We’ve been seeing a lot more folx moving up to the territory who are who are out, trans, and queer. We’re also seeing more youth participating or wanting to participate.
“QYS wants to do a lot for the community but with, again, a somewhat-limited capacity. We have to kind of be cautious as to how we move forward, so we’re not promising absolutely everything.” Sirois smiled, then continued, “But we also want to serve our growing, expanding communities to the best of our abilities.”
Listening is at the core of how QYS grows. Sirois said, “We’re trying to push for Queer Yukon Society to become more advocacy centered. Many requests we hear from the community are focussed on the need for resources, support and a need for health-care assistance and navigating the health-care system. We are really trying to put our attention to [what the] community needs most and in those sectors of advocacy and resources.” QYS and Sirois put a lot of heart into their work. “We still really deeply care for community and want to see them safe, protected and have the resources they need.” She continued, “We will advocate for [and] on their behalf for as long as we’re here—especially when we see the youth show up and engage and participate! It’s always very exciting to me to see that next generation coming in and be excited to be out.”