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'You are beautiful and wonderful'
NWT Pride president says main goal of annual festival is to support youth

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Curbing teen suicide rates by giving LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) youth a forum to share experiences is the most important goal of NWT Pride, according to board president Patrick Peers.

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Patrick Peers, board president for NWT Pride, said between 600 and 700 people attended the group's fourth annual festival on Saturday night alone. - Evan Kiyoshi French/NNSL photo

The organization wrapped up its fourth edition of the event Sunday evening, having entertained hundreds at the Folk on the Rocks beer garden site and at other venues around the city. Peers, who moonlights as the food and beverage co-ordinator, said between 600 and 700 people attended the free concert by Long Lake on Saturday evening alone.

"What's important about it is we're an all ages family-oriented event," he said. "We want the children of Yellowknife to know no matter what they're going through in life there's someone out there who can sympathize and empathize and help them through it. Teen suicide in queer youth is the highest area of teen suicide right now."

Peers said he's the product of military parents, has lived in Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, and decided to call Yellowknife home about 14 years ago. He said he remembers when - ten years ago - the city's attitude toward pride was a little hazy. In May 2005, after the city had proclaimed June 10, 2005, to be Gay Pride Day, a former councillor proposed a Heterosexual Day, which was met with opposition before he withdrew the request.

Peers - remembering the discourse of the last decade - said Woytuik's reaction was predictable.

"It was kind of shocking . it happens every now and then," he said. "It's going to happen if people feel they aren't included in our group."

Peers said pride is a time to celebrate LGBTQ equality.

"Pride isn't for us to sit here and say 'yay gays,' we're different from everyone else'," he said. "No matter what your gender identity, what your orientation is, you are no different from anybody else and you are beautiful and wonderful. I know starting out pride was a lot smaller. There was a core group of people that wanted to make it happen, Yk was one of the only capital cities in Canada that didn't have a pride festival. And that wasn't cool. It was no fault of the city's, it was no fault of anybody. It just nobody had taken the time to start the festival. It's come so far."

Coun. Rebecca Alty, who delivered opening remarks on council's behalf on Friday night, said she was just a "young pup" when council was contemplating heterosexual pride day. She said the council of the day missed the point of pride celebrations.

"It's still suggested . in March, when it's International Women's Day, we should have international men's day," she said. "The LGBTQ community is still marginalized frequently. Not only does (pride) promote diversity in our community . but in their workshops (are) an opportunity to discuss a lot of issues around sexuality and gender that aren't talked about."

Alty - who said she attended the first NWT Pride event - said there were many more faces at this year's festival.

"It looked like a significant increase in numbers," she said.

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