19 minute read

Explore Taber Pride’s journey from adversity to unity and inclusivity, highlighting their transformative power and inspiring love and acceptance.

The Taber Pride flag raises for the first tim on June 12, 2017.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

As I reflect upon my involvement in the Pride celebrations here in Taber, I embark on a journey woven with triumphs and challenges, resilience, and unwavering determination. Each year has brought its own unique experiences, and as I look back, the memories flood my mind. 

2017: A Day of Pure Joy and Celebration Marred by malicious acts - Igniting the Flame of Taber Pride

In 2017, the Taber Equality Alliance Society took a bold step, marching into the Taber town council chambers with determination in our hearts. On that momentous day of March 27, we stood before the council, our voices resolute as we passionately pleaded our case. We emphasized the importance of raising the pride flag, a symbol of support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Yet, disappointment hung heavy in the air when the council initially voted against our request, a disheartening 2-5 decision.

Wires with scraps of fabric tied to them. Each piece of fabric has a message written on them stating what Pride means to the individual who wrote the message.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

Amidst this initial setback, a glimmer of hope emerged from the shadows. Councillor Randy Sparks stepped forward, presenting a motion that would grant us the use of a flagpole behind the administration building in Confederation Park. The subsequent vote of 4-3 in favour of this motion was not the resounding victory we had hoped for, but it offered us an opportunity to raise our voices and make a stand.

June 12, 2017, etched itself deep into our memories, a day pulsating with pure joy and unbridled celebration. The atmosphere crackled with electricity as the 2SLGBTQIA+ community converged, united by a shared purpose, with nearly 300 people in attendance; the day overflowed with vibrant entertainment, mouth-watering food, and children’s laughter echoing through the air. It was also a day of firsts as Taber bore witness to its inaugural drag performance by the mesmerizing Francheska Dynamites, who made her debut that day on our stage. Amidst the festivities, courageous individuals, myself included, stepped up to the microphone, our voices laden with personal stories and the struggles we had overcome. As the pride flag soared higher and higher, a symphony of jubilant cheers and tearful expressions of joy reverberated through the crowd. It was a powerful moment; witnessing the pride flag unfurled and fluttering in the conservative town of Taber was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Sadly, our joy was ephemeral, snuffed out by an act of cowardice. Under the cover of darkness, a malicious individual defiled the flag, tearing it down from its sublime perch on the pole and callously tying its shreds to a nearby tree. But we, fueled by determination, refused to be silenced or disheartened. With a small but fiercely devoted gathering of supporters, we rallied once again, defiantly raising the flag and standing firm in the face of adversity.

Two photos, one is of several smaller Pride Flags standing at the base of a flag pole, and the second photo is of the chard remains of a pride flag.
Photo by Sheldon Frolic

Yet, another blow descended upon us. Under the cloak of darkness, flames engulfed the pride flag, devouring it with a fiery determination that aimed to scorch our progress and belittle our struggles. This act of hatred and disdain struck a chord deep within me. As just days prior, the pride crosswalk in nearby Lethbridge had suffered a similar fate, defaced by streaks of black paint.

It was a bright sunny Sunday morning when the news of the burnt flag reached me. I was driving to a friend’s house, and a torrent of tears overcame me, the weight of frustration and sorrow overwhelming. The burning of the pride flag symbolized an attempt to erode our progress, to disrespect the efforts of those who had fought and sacrificed for equality.

Later that Sunday, during the aftermath of this heart-wrenching incident, the core group of Taber Pride organizers gathered at my friend’s house. The sun illuminated her living room, attempting to brighten our spirits. There, in the safety of that space, we sought solace and found strength in one another’s company. We shed tears, sharing the weight of our emotions and unburdening ourselves from the pain we carried. From that collective pain, a resolute statement of hope emerged. We made a solemn vow to persist, to remain steadfast in the face of hatred and adversity.

An Image if a Statement from the Taber Equality Alliance Society - June 24, 2017.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

So, on the following day, in front of yet another sizable crowd, we defiantly raised the pride flag for the third time. The air was charged with determination as we stood shoulder to shoulder, united in our unwavering commitment to love and acceptance.

During that poignant third flag-raising ceremony, I had the privilege of once again stepping in front of the microphone. With a voice filled with passion and defiance, I denounced the burning of the pride flag as an act of cowardice—a stark reminder that there are those who still harbour hate and seek to undermine our progress. The pride flag, I proclaimed, represented the struggles and sacrifices of those who came before us, the lives lost, and the battles fought for recognition and equality. It symbolizes resilience, a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. The act of destruction aimed to extinguish that hope, but we, as a community, refused to let it succeed.

As the pride flag ascended the pole for the third time, it did so to a crowd no longer filled with tears of joy but fueled by a fierce determination. We stood together, unyielding in the face of opposition, resolved to love and live as loudly as we possibly could. We understood that our collective strength and unwavering spirit were crucial in combating the forces of hatred and prejudice.

In the days that followed, something remarkable unfolded. Supporters, filled with unwavering dedication, stationed themselves at the base of the flagpole to stand as sentinels, acting as beacons of justice and resilience. Their presence throughout the night, unwavering and resolute, sent a clear message to the world—that the spirit of acceptance and inclusivity could not be extinguished by acts of hatred.

Two people watching the Taber Pride flag being raised for the first time in Taber - June 12, 2017.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

Through the lens of this Pride celebration in Taber, we have learned the power of unity, the strength that comes from standing together in the face of adversity. We have witnessed the indomitable human spirit and the transformative power of love. It is through our collective resilience that we continue to make progress, challenging the status quo and creating a more inclusive society.

But we refuse to be deterred. Each Pride celebration in Taber is not just a joyous occasion but also a defiant act against the overwhelming sea of negativity and hate that often surrounds us. It is a reminder that Pride is not just a celebration; it is still a protest—a powerful assertion of our right to exist, to love, and to be proud of who we are.

2018: Overcoming Obstacles, Building Bridges - Taber Pride’s Journey Continues 

2018 was a year that left an indelible mark on the history of Pride celebrations in Taber. It was a year defined by resilience, as we faced challenges head-on and triumphed against all odds. It reminded us of the power of unity and the profound impact we can make when we stand together as a community.

In November 2017, the Taber Equality Alliance Society (TEA) once again approached the Taber town council, determined to raise the pride flag high in the following year’s celebrations. Our voices echoed through the council chambers, filled with conviction and hope. While the council listened to our presentation, their decision remained uncertain, leaving us eagerly anticipating their verdict.

An image if a statement from the Taber Equality Alliance Society - January 30, 2018.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

However, January 2018 brought disheartening news, shrouding our aspirations in a cloud of disappointment. The town council delivered a blow, rejecting our request to use the community flagpole. Their decision was rooted in changes to their Flag Protocol Policy C-9, which now limited the flagpoles exclusively to the Canadian, provincial, and town flags. It felt like a setback, an inauspicious moment that threatened to dampen our spirits.

But from the depths of despair, an unexpected source emerged, casting a ray of hope upon our path. Sandra Jansen, the Infrastructure Minister of the then-NDP provincial government, became an unexpected ally. In an extraordinary act of support, she reached out to us via her Twitter account, extending a heartfelt invitation. Her words resonated deeply, offering solace and encouragement in a single tweet: “Dear Taber, Your 1st flag was stolen, 2nd burned. It would be an honour to fly your next Pride flag from the Taber prov building.”

Minister Jansen’s gesture had an immediate and profound impact on our spirits. It reminded us that the struggle for equality transcends political boundaries and that compassion and solidarity can spring forth from the most unforeseen quarters. In her unwavering support, we found renewed strength and determination.

Taber Pride Flag flying at the Provincial Building in Taber Alberta, June 2, 2018.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

And so, on June 2, 2018, the Pride celebrations in Taber unfolded, undeterred by the initial setback. Though denied the use of the community flagpole, the spirit of Pride burned brightly within our hearts. Our resilient community converged, defiantly proclaiming our love, our diversity, and the progress we had achieved.

As we reflect upon the Pride celebrations of 2018, they stand as a testament to the unyielding spirit of our community. It reminds us that the journey towards change brims with obstacles and resistance. But in those moments of adversity, we discover the depths of our inner strength and find solace in the support of unexpected allies.

The invitation from Minister Jansen became a symbol of hope in the face of adversity, igniting a fire within us that refused to be extinguished. It showcased the power of unity and advocacy, transcending political affiliations and reaffirming our belief that acceptance knows no bounds.

The Pride celebrations in Taber during that year were not merely festivities but a bold declaration of our resilience and determination. In the face of adversity, we built spaces of inclusivity and acceptance, sending a resounding message to the world—that love will always triumph over hatred and discrimination.

As we look back on the significant moments of 2018, let us draw inspiration from the challenges we overcame. Let us cherish the allies who stood beside us, as their support reminds us that our voices matter and our identities are valid. May the Pride celebrations in Taber forever remind us that our fight for equality will never waver, that our journey toward acceptance continues and that united, we are an unstoppable force.

2019: Rising Above Challenges, Embracing Unity - Taber Pride’s Triumph

2019 marked a pivotal moment in the history of Pride celebrations in Taber. It was a year filled with opposition and resilience, reminding us that the fight for equality is an ongoing battle. A petition circulated within our community, urging the denial of our request to use the Provincial building flagpole. This unfortunate opposition served as a vivid reminder that our journey toward equality is far from over.

Photo of a group of people watching the Pride Flag raising on June 1, 2019.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

Amidst the dissent and adversity, a glimmer of recognition emerged. A film crew from Xtra Media arrived in Taber, capturing the essence of our Pride celebrations for a documentary titled “Small Town Pride.” Their presence highlighted the resilience and determination of our community, shedding light on the importance of amplifying Pride in small towns. The documentary, now available on CBC Gem, served as a powerful testament to our unwavering spirit.

As we reflect on the challenges faced in 2019, we carry the knowledge that our voices and our identities deserve celebration and respect. The Pride celebrations on June 1, 2019, stood as a defiant statement against the forces of opposition. We stood firm, united in our conviction that love and acceptance should prevail.

2020: Unyielding Resilience - Raising the Pride Flag in the Midst of a Global Crisis

Pride Flag flying over the Taber Provincial Building.
Photo by Jayce Wilson

With the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 brought an unprecedented challenge. The world ground to a halt, bringing with it the cancellation of numerous events and gatherings. We stood firm in the face of uncertainty and adversity, refusing to allow the silencing of our Pride. On June 6, 2020, with a discreet gathering of a few individuals, we raised the Pride flag, symbolizing our unwavering Pride and solidarity. It was a moment of quiet strength, a testament to the indomitable spirit of Pride that cannot be extinguished, even in the midst of a global crisis.

As we look ahead, let us carry the lessons learned from these experiences. Let us use our voices, our stories, and our shared humanity to create change and foster understanding. May the Pride celebrations in Taber continue to serve as beacons of hope, inspiring us to never back down, to never compromise our authenticity, and to always strive for a more inclusive and accepting world.

2021: Illuminating Young Lives - The Vital Importance of Pride and Representation

2021 marked another significant year in our ongoing journey of resilience and determination. Despite the grip of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on June 5, 2022, we once again proudly raised the Pride flag. In the face of adversity, we stood tall, unwavering in our commitment to honour our community’s strength and resilience.

Two youth standing under the Progressive Prideflag in Taber - June 5, 2021.
Photo by Jayce Wilson

This year, a remarkable and profoundly moving moment unfolded. Several young teenagers from our conservative town defied the odds and joined our small gathering. They confided in us that this was their very first Pride celebration, as their unsupportive parents had forbidden them from attending. They were only able to join us because our gathering was discreet, and their parents remained unaware of the event. This poignant encounter underscored the profound significance of Pride and representation, particularly in the lives of young 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals who often confront rejection and a lack of support within their own families.

For many young 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, the journey of self-discovery and acceptance is profoundly personal and challenging. Embracing their true selves and accepting their sexual orientation or gender identity means frequently confronting societal norms, biases, and, regrettably, at times, even familial rejection. In navigating their identities within an environment that may lack understanding and acceptance, these young individuals may experience isolation, confusion, and emotional turmoil.

In such circumstances, Pride and representation become indispensable sources of support and validation. Pride celebrations provide a safe and inclusive space where 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals can authentically express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination. Witnessing others who have endured similar experiences and proudly celebrating their identities serves as a potent reminder that they are not alone and that their feelings and experiences are valid.

Furthermore, representation plays a pivotal role in shaping the self-esteem and mental well-being of young 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. When they see positive and diverse 2SLGBTQIA+ role models in the media, their communities, and during Pride events, it instills hope and affirmation. It allows them to envision a future where they can live authentically, pursue their dreams, and find happiness and acceptance.

Children sitting on the grass holding a small pride Flag - June 1, 2019.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

By actively participating in Pride celebrations and proudly raising the Pride flag, we boldly declare to young 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals: We see you, we value you, and we love you. Our aim is to cultivate an environment where they can embrace their identities with unwavering Pride, fostering a sense of belonging and empowering them to live authentically and unapologetically.

Pride and representation are far from mere symbolic gestures—they carry a profound impact on the lives of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those who are young and vulnerable. By continuously raising the Pride flag, standing together in solidarity, and celebrating love and diversity, we transmit a powerful message of acceptance and support.

As we reflect on these transformative years, let us remain cognizant of the strength that resides within our community. Let us persistently champion equality, tirelessly advocate for the rights of all 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, and work towards creating a future where acceptance and love are universal. Together, we can construct a society where every person, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feels valued, respected, and celebrated.

2023: Standing Strong in the Face of Protest - Drag Queen Story Time in Taber

In my mind, the events of June 3, 2023, during the most recent Pride celebration in Taber, come alive with vivid clarity. The images and videos I witnessed depict a scene that is difficult to forget. On that day, a formidable group of protesters amassed outside the Taber Public Library, their voices raised in opposition to the Drag Queen Story Time event. Although I was unable to attend due to work commitments, the intensity of the atmosphere was palpable even from a distance.

An Image of the Taber Equality Alliance Society media release - May 30, 2023.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

The protest gathered momentum, with the crowd enveloping the entire library building. The demonstrators created a daunting barrier for supporters of the event, who had to navigate through a barrage of heckling and confrontations just to enter. Amidst the commotion, one protester even resorted to hurling derogatory slurs at a local minister and his partner, branding them as “freaks.” Witnessing such a lack of compassion and understanding from individuals who claimed to act in the name of Christ and child protection was profoundly disheartening.

However, amidst the hostility, a beacon of courage shone brightly. I was deeply moved and inspired by the brave souls who refused to be intimidated by the vitriolic atmosphere and chose to enter the library, determined to participate in Drag Queen Story Time. The multipurpose room was bursting at the seams with individuals who had made the unwavering decision to stand in support of this invaluable event. And leading the way was none other than Francheska Dynamites, the drag queen who has graced the stage of Taber Pride every year since her debut in 2017.

Francheska Dynamites holding a sign that reads: Sent my siblings to college, Build a home 4 family, Paid medical bills of my parents, No tax owing, Proud Gay, I'm Unstoppable.
Photo Courtesy of Francheska Dynamites

A paragon of grace and poise, Francheska Dynamites performed with an unwavering sense of dignity and professionalism despite the ever-present angry mob mere meters away. Her resolute presence and steadfast commitment to her art form left me in awe. In witnessing her fortitude amidst adversity, my respect for her and the entire drag community deepened. They continue to defy norms, shatter barriers, and teach us the profound impact of authenticity and self-expression.

Amidst the vehement opposition, it is crucial to remember that Pride embodies love, acceptance, and inclusivity. It stands as a celebration of diversity, a resounding affirmation of the rights and dignity of every individual. The events of that momentous day served as a jarring reminder of the work that lies ahead as we strive to cultivate understanding and compassion within our community.

As we reflect on the recent Pride celebration, let us cherish the indelible image of those who fearlessly championed love and acceptance amidst the hostile environment. Let us honour the unyielding resilience of drag queens like Francesca Dynamite and express our heartfelt gratitude for their unwavering courage and unparalleled artistry. Together, we can forge a society where everyone, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation, can find solace, respect, and celebration.

Conclusion: From Adversity to Advocacy - Reflecting on Taber Pride’s Journey

In the face of adversity and the obstinate presence of negativity, the essence of Pride shines through with unwavering relevance and power. It is not merely an annual celebration but a defiant act against the forces that seek to deny our very existence and diminish our worth. Each year, as we come together, we engage in a protest against hate and discrimination, standing firmly in the arena of truth and acceptance.

Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne (1910):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Photo Courtesy of Pach Bros., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Theodore Roosevelt’s words resonate within the heart of Pride. He reminds us that it is easy for critics and skeptics to occupy the sidelines and pass judgment, but true strength lies in being in that arena, fully exposed, fightingknows for what we believe in. Pride emboldens us to step into that arena, challenge prejudice and injustice, and forge a world where every individual can live authentically. If we do not venture into that arena, if our faces remain unmarred by the grit of dust, sweat, and blood, then our voices hold no meaning.

Pride celebrations serve as catalysts for conversation, and these conversations possess the transformative power to ignite change. When we gather, we unite people from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. We share our stories, our struggles, and our triumphs, weaving a tapestry of understanding and empathy. Through these dialogues, we dismantle stereotypes, challenge misconceptions, and inspire others to speak their own truths. In doing so, we create a ripple effect that has the potential to reshape hearts and minds.

Taber Pride stands as a beacon of progress within our town. It has opened doors, shattered preconceived notions, and nurtured a resilient, unified community. It serves as a testament to the unwavering love, determination, and resilience of the people who call Taber home. As we continue on our collective journey, let us carry with us the invaluable lessons we have learned, the strides we have made, and the unyielding hope that fuels our advocacy.

A larg Gather of people waiting to watch the Raising of the Taber Pride Flag - June 1, 2019.
Photo Courtesy of Taber Equality Alliance Society

Pride transcends a mere day or event; it requires our daily commitment to construct a more inclusive and accepting world. It urges every individual to examine their own biases, to confront discrimination wherever it lurks, and to amplify the voices of the marginalized. Together, we can create a society where everyone feels safe, valued, and celebrated for their authentic selves.

As we draw this reflection on our Pride celebrations in Taber to a close, let us hold steadfast to the spirit of resilience, love, and unity that has guided our journey thus far. May we forever embrace the exquisite beauty of our diversity, standing firm in our convictions and lifting high the flag of Pride as a radiant symbol of hope and inspiration. Together, we will forge a path towards a brighter future, not only within the boundaries of Taber but also in every corner of the world.

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