Once again, all of the communities in Muskoka have raised the Rainbow Pride flag in celebration of Muskoka Pride Week, which runs July 17 to 25.
The Townships of Muskoka Lakes, Georgian Bay, and Lake of Bays, Wahta First Nation, and the towns of Huntsville, Bracebridge, and Gravenhurst all raised the flag again this year.
The ceremonies were attended by more people than last year, but the gatherings were still small and everyone was wearing masks and ensuring physical distance. Ceremonies were live-streamed to the Muskoka Pride Facebook page to further limit the number of attendees. All mayors and members of Council extended their best wishes for a successful and unique week of Pride events.
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith expressed his pleasure in raising the Progress Pride flag during this unusual year. He thanked Muskoka Pride for their work promoting diversity and inclusivity throughout the year. Mayor Smith encouraged “everyone in our community to make sure that in their daily lives that they put inclusivity and diversity first in their thoughts…and welcome everyone.”
In Gravenhurst, Mayor Paul Kelly and Deputy-Mayor Heidi Lorenz welcomed the people in attendance on behalf of the Town of Gravenhurst. He said that he is “looking forward to be celebrating Pride with all of Muskoka.”
Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding expressed his pleasure to be able to raise the Pride flag. He stated, “We need to be inclusive of everyone – we are all one, we are all equal.”
The Progress Pride Flag symbolizes the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community with the many colours representing the diverse community. The new flag, designed in 2018, specifically heightens awareness of marginalized groups within the LGBTQ+ community (queer people of colour and people who identify as trans or gender-diverse) who still face discrimination in their daily lives.
For Merv Taylor-Morin, President of Muskoka Pride, the flag raisings are a symbol of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ population of Muskoka. “It says to the people in Muskoka that our community is diverse and inclusive, an important message for residents and visitors.”
He stressed the need for the flag raising’s visibility within Muskoka. “It’s important for all people to see it and know that they’re welcome in their own communities.”
“It is significant that all communities of Muskoka are once again recognizing the Muskoka Pride Festival this year,” says board member Shawn Forth, “because there are LGBTQ+ residents all over Muskoka, who want to feel supported by their town.”
Having grown up in Muskoka, he understands the feeling of isolation that comes with thinking you are alone. “Visibility is important for the LGBTQ+ community so that you don’t feel isolated. LGBTQ+ Pride is not just about tolerance and acceptance – it’s about celebrating the rich diversity in our community.”
This year’s Pride Week theme is “Coming Out…of Lockdown!” which reflects the desire for celebration but also the fact that Muskoka is currently in Step 3 of reopening, and many safety protocols are still in place. Several events this year are virtual, and all in-person gatherings will be observing physical distancing and gathering limits.
Everyone, no matter how you identify, is welcome to attend any Muskoka Pride event.