With Pride festivals kicking off around the country, we sat down with Kids Help Phone Counsellor Shannon to talk about what it's like for a young person to attend their first Pride festival, what issues they face, and the types of conversations they should have with friends, family and allies.
What's the question you're asked the most by young people about attending their first Pride festival?
The most common question I'm asked is "What if somebody who doesn't know I'm LGBTQ sees me?"
One of the first things I ask is, "what it might mean to them if someone who doesn't already know in their life found out?"
A really good way for young people to answer this is by asking themselves:
• Is this a good time to come out?
• Would I tell the person I'm LGBTQ if I wasn't attending Pride?
• Why haven't I told that person yet?
• How will that person react?
Have you had a young person ask you what to do if they're not out yet, but they want to attend Pride?
Yes. I've found that if someone hasn't come out yet, there are often underlying motivations -- they may not feel they're ready or they may be afraid of the reactions of others.
Young people don't need to be told yes, or no, to attending Pride -- more often than not, as they talk it out, they find the answer that feels right from within themselves.
The best thing a young person can do is take some time to talk to a trusted friend or family member, or someone from Kids Help Phone -- someone they can really open up to.
What issues do you explore in a counselling session with young people about LGBTQ dating?
Almost exactly the same as the issues as young people face in heterosexual dating. Some of the additional problems that we explore, especially around Pride are:
• If you haven't come out and your partner has, what are your next steps in terms of being seen publicly at pride? Would you be OK if people you knew saw you?
• If you have come out and your partner hasn't, what are your next steps in terms of being affectionate in public? Would you be OK to hide your relationship?
Because each person and each relationship is so different, there is no one answer to these questions -- it's very important that young people and their partners have an open dialogue and really try to understand each other's feelings as best they can.
What should a young person do if they encounter a group of protesters at Pride?
The first thing to remember is that the people around you will be overwhelmingly supportive of your sexuality, and you as a person. If you do encounter protesters, and they are harassing you:
• Make it known that you are being harassed. There will be other people around you that will be able to support you
• Ignore them directly
• If necessary, approach the police
What should a young person do if their family doesn't accept that they are LGBTQ, but they still want to attend Pride?
What a young person should do is highly dependent on each person's circumstances. Answering these questions should help though:
• How supportive or un-supportive is the environment at home?
• Would one parent be OK with their sexuality and the other not? Would the un-supportive parent ever come around?
• Is this a good time? Have a think about your living arrangements how much money you have, and how many family members, immediate and extended, are supportive.
How does a young person react to someone trying to hit on them?
Consent is the most important thing. They should constantly ask themselves, "Do I want this?'"Consent is critical, and it's OK to answer "No, thank you."
And just because they're feeling good about the situation, and given their consent earlier in the day, they should know they you can still say no at any time. Saying yes once doesn't mean you've said yes forever.
Why is it important for LGBTQ youth to attend their first Pride?
Attending your first Pride is about just that. Having Pride!! It's about being proud of who you are, and your sexuality. But remember -- do it on your terms!
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The Toronto Pride Parade will take over parts of Yonge Street on Sunday, July 3, from Church and Bloor streets to Dundas Square. The parade starts at 2 p.m. and takes about three hours to run its course.
This year, trans activist Aydian Dowling, philanthropist Salah Bachir and singer-songwriter Vivek Shraya are the Grand Marshals of this year's Pride Parade. (Photo shows last year's Grand Marshals). The Parade will also feature honoured group Black Lives Matter and the international honoured guests The Prancing Elites and youth ambassador Jordyn Samuels.
According to Victoria Schwarzl, of Pride Toronto, this is the first year where all three levels of Canadian government are marching in the Toronto Pride Parade. "Keep your eyes out for Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau." she tells the Huffington Post Canada.
Shirley Kendall, an elder with the Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee nations, will perform a smudging ceremony — an Indigenous custom that is used to purify a space — at Church and Bloor streets to open the parade, which takes place on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.
The Pride Parade will go on no matter rain or shine, so come prepared for both. Pack an umbrella or an easily foldable rain coat just in case the weather calls for rain. If it calls for lots of sun, slap on the SPF and wear a hat!
Are you a person with a disability? No problem, Pride is very accessible. Schwarzl says risers are located throughout the parade route in order to provide easy viewing for guests with accessibility needs. Risers are located on Isabella Street, St. Mary's Street, Maitland Street, Breadalbane Street, and Elm Street. There is also a section specifically for blind and low-vision spectators on Wood Street (which will have live description of the parade) and an area specifically for people with mobility devices at Edward Street.
Traffic is sure to be gnarled the day of the parade, so leave the car at home and take an alternate mode of travel, which will leave you a lot less frustrated. Hop on the TTC, grab your bike or just walk!
Don't want to miss out on any of the action? Volunteer and you'll have the best view in the house! Pride depends on more than 1,500 volunteers to make the festival happen. There's still time to sign up so click here to find out more.
When the Parade's over, head over to Yonge Dundas Square to watch Joe Jonas and DNCE, Well-Strung, Alex Newell and more.
"Know that it's more than just a parade," Schwarzl says. " The Pride Parade represents decades of struggle and oppression for people within our community. It is a celebration of love and life that both commemorates the strides our society has taken and also reflects the long way we have to go in achieving equality."
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