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Taking pride in diversity

A crowd gathered at the corner of King and Centre Streets on a windy Sunday afternoon. Purple t-shirts were worn while bubbles, balloons and plentiful rainbow-coloured items lined the sidewalks. The sight of two motorcycles, one pink, followed by a large rainbow flag was met with cheers for Durham Region’s first Pride Parade.

Rainbow clad participants walk and rode in the first annual Durham Region Pride Parade on Sunday

“It’s a long time coming,” said Melody Alderton-Ballick, watching the event from the sidelines. “Oshawa isn’t known for being open to diversity and equality. It’s about time.”

Parade participants came in all shapes and sizes. Adults, children and even pink tutu-sporting puppies joined in the marching fun. Some dressed brightly, twirling rainbow coloured streamers while others were clad in leather with whips in hand. All sorts of people from different walks of life gathered together with a singular purpose – to demonstrate the Durham Pride’s festival theme Together it Does Get Better.

Groups including the AIDS Committee of Durham Region marched with corporations like Ontario Power Generation. Durham Region Roller Derby Girls skated en route beside the Green Party. The Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario handed out Positive Space stickers while the music of artists like Blondie and Lady Gaga blared from car speakers. The Righteously Outrageous Twirly Corps were a crowd pleaser with their choreographed numbers dancing them through the parade route.

Though the Town of Ajax participated in the parade, there were no signs of Whitby. This lack of participation might not being surprising on the heels of a recent Whitby town meeting that pushed council into raising a Pride flag alongside other Durham Region municipalities.

On the Oshawa political front, Councillor Amy England wrote excitedly on her Facebook page, “Until the day we all can live together in harmony and respect that regardless of our sexual orientation, we are all human. We need things like the Durham Pride Parade to remind us that true equality comes from celebrating our differences.”

The message of equality was so strong on parade day that goose bumps were found on raised, dancing arms and tears streaked face-painted cheeks. June 12, 2011 marked a historical step regarding the inclusion of all our citizens as a whole of Durham Region.

Despite any resistance and opposition in the past, society members gathered for equality and for pride. The message painted onto a vehicle for community group Girls Inc. put it beautifully, “To get to the rainbow you have to face the rain.”

Story and images by Hillary DiMenna

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