I’ll admit that Hamilton’s Pride festivities have never been particularly impressive and I’d never been inclined to attend any before this year. But the quality of Pride celebrations in Hamilton this year pointed to the lackluster state of LGBTQ+ affairs in the city.
It’s understandable that Pride events in Hamilton gain less attention and have lower attendance than those in larger cities like Toronto, but for the city’s queer community, their existence is equally, if not more, important.
However, this year’s events were even more disheartening than usual. At the Pride flag raising event at City hall, a group of Hamilton queer activists left angered by the choice of speakers made by the LGBTQ+ advisory committee— all white, cisgender queer community members, as reported by the outlet Daily Xtra.
This is bad news for a city that has a human rights complaint underway about a case involving a trans woman being denied access to a women’s washroom by an HSR guard. On a larger scale, Hamilton also doesn’t have any functional services directed at meeting the needs of its LGBTQ+ community.
Two of the advisory committee members, Chris Erl, a recent McMaster graduate, and Marlon Picken apologized for the lack of diversity. Chris Erl also publicly announced his resignation from the committee in his response to activist Poe Liberado’s social media post regarding the controversy, and stated that the small size of the committee made it hard to ensure quality and due diligence.
Everything from the number of events, to the fact that many events were held by the Rainbow Health-funded initiative Space Between, to the quality and lack of diversity at the flag raising event, points to a city that is not taking the needs of its LGBTQ+ community and especially marginalized communities within that community (such as people of colour, with disabilities, indigenous people) as seriously as it should be.
Aside from the obvious appeal to social equality and dignity, this issue is important to Hamiltonians of all identities. Celebrating its marginalized communities and investing in service provision for LGBTQ+ people is paramount to Hamilton’s development, as well as its retention of graduating students like myself. I know that I would be more willing to stick around if Hamilton’s queer community was vibrant and its marginalized groups weren’t suffering. And I imagine I am not alone in holding this conviction.