‘It’s a place for everyone’: Fort Erie shows its pride

A short conversation is sometimes all it takes.

Fort Erie Pride returned for its third official year on Saturday, welcoming the entire community, and even people from as far away as England, to a full day of fun and inclusion. But while the day is a rare community event for people in the LGBTQ2+ community, organizers say it’s much more than that.

Dances in Shadows performs during Fort Erie Pride. Credit: Luke Edwards | Fort Erie Radio

“Fort Erie Pride is not just about being part of the LGBTQ2+ community. It’s about being a part of the Fort Erie community. It’s about getting together with everybody else in the community, regardless of sexual, religious or any other orientation,” said Noel Leboeuf.

“It’s about getting to know people. If you sit and talk to someone for 10 minutes, all of a sudden they’re not scary anymore. It’s just a place for everyone to come and be themselves.”

The event moved indoors this year, as heavy downpours made an outdoor event impossible. While Leboeuf said he prefers the outdoor venue, his husband and fellow organizer Marc Poisson said the indoor version had its perks.

“Actually I think it ended up working in our favour because everybody is now inside, the bar is easy access, the food is easy access and people can walk around and sit and still be involved,” Poisson said.

Several vendors were on hand, while a stage was set up for drag performances.

Filthy Richeard was one of the performers at Fort Erie Pride on Saturday. Credit: Luke Edwards | Fort Erie Radio

“I liked how welcoming people are,” said performer Filthy Richeard, who’s from Atlanta but is currently in grad school at Brock University and began doing drag performances a year ago after seeing a show at the Moose and Goose in Thorold.

Kim Ansell and Elizabeth Yates were on hand, representing the Niagara chapter of PFLAG Canada. The organization provides peer support, education and advocacy to support people with questions around sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s celebrating its 30th anniversary in Niagara and both Ansell and Yates said events like Fort Erie Pride remain important.

“There’s so much solidarity, support and joy. It’s really important for our community,” said Yates.

Kim Ansell and Elizabeth Yates represented the Niagara chapter of PFLAG at the Fort Erie Pride event. Credit: Luke Edwards | Fort Erie Radio

Recent events have only reinforced that need.

In the past couple years, Leboeuf said they’ve received death threats and other harassment as they undertook various projects and hosted events. Leboeuf said it got to the point that he invited those instigating the harassment to sit down and have a conversation, but they never showed.

“It’s not necessarily the people from the town,” Leboeuf said.

“We’ve felt it, we’ve seen it, we’ve heard it and viewed it. Bigotry is now right out in the open,” added Poisson, who recalled similar attacks back in the 1980s. Now, he said his generation must teach the younger generations how perilous their rights can be, and what they can do to preserve them.

Fortunately, events like Fort Erie Pride provide that opportunity. Board member Dave Servos said people were waiting at the door before they opened at 11, and there were several youth who were happy to have a place outside school where they could be themselves.

“When they come they bring their flag they identify with so it’s nice to be able to support that,” Servos said, adding there are limited options in the region. “It’s a safe space for the community. In Niagara there’s no gay bar. There’s really not a lot of spaces people can go.”

Poisson thanked the various sponsors and vendors for their help.

The organizers also said they were happy to see most of town council attend the event to show their support, and Poisson thanked the “two Waynes”–Mayor Wayne Redekop and MPP Wayne Gates–for their ongoing support.

Stay Informed

Events, offers, contests, and breaking news, all delivered straight to your inbox.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *