As we find ourselves in the middle of our local Pride Festival here in Edmonton, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the roots, present and future in a blog post about Alberta’s MOGII/LGBT*Q(IAP)+ rights, community, and celebration.
First, a little discussion about the above acronyms - LGBT is the most recognizable, and stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer (IAP means Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual). There is a neat little acronym that has started to surface, and that we love; it’s called MOGII and stands for Marginalized Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex. It doesn’t use any reclaimed slurs, fetishize lesbianism or bias against any outliers beneath the rainbow.
The Pride Festival in Edmonton as we know it today started in 1981 with a raid on Pisces Bathhouse by police. 40 (yes, forty!!) gay men took offense to the constant harassment by police and marched down Whyte Avenue; nearly half of them wore disguises of some variety. This year, for reference, around 14,000 people attended or participated in the parade in downtown Edmonton. Pride Parades and Festivals across Alberta over the past five years have involved Prime Ministers (Joe Clark), Premiers, City Mayors, City Councilors, NHL Players, major (national) sponsors, renowned national and international speakers and performers and have gone from essentially organized protests to full on celebrations of MOGII culture.
Today, and in the future, Pride and MOGII culture acceptance continues to swell. A 2011 poll said that ¾ of Albertans support same-sex marriage and relationships, and 70% of Canadians have a personal relationship with someone who is LGBT. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. Upward and onward, Canada, upward and onward. We, as Canadians have entrenched gay and queer culture into our own distinct ‘Canadianness’ – like Tim Hortons coffee or NHL hockey or bashing Steven Harper – and most of us have embraced it with open arms. Pride Festivals – like Edmonton and Calgary’s – continue to pop up in cities across Canada, drawing larger and larger crowds each year. There are at least 4 Pride festivals in Alberta, not including Gay Rodeos and other gay-centric events throughout the year. It’s certainly a far cry from forty gay men marching down the street wearing disguises.
To close with a personal comparison, I am more confused and put-off by purple potatoes that I am about homosexuality. I have the privilege of knowing and working alongside many wonderful MOGII people. I myself never had to struggle much with being openly queer. Liking girls and boys and birls and goys and everything between was just a thing that I did; sort of like putting pants on in the morning, I put on my queerness. For most Canadians my age, it simply does not register when someone ‘comes out’. I hope that someday this can be an international norm, but today – this week – I am simply proud that Edmontonians have Pride.