As a young Vancouverite living in Davie Village and attending every pride I could after coming out in my late teens, I found myself restless at 23 and in need of a change.
How I came to live in Fredericton has more to do with the way the wind blew than anything else, really, but regardless, I did my research and was looking forward to moving to a place said to have the second largest LGBTQ population per capita in North America (San Francisco being the first).
I envisioned a small gay village with a cluster of quaint gay bars nestled in a sleepy downtown core, likely with a fiddler playing either on the street corner directly outside the establishments or on each stage nightly before the DJs rolled in.
In light of upcoming Fredericton Pride celebrations and five years after having moved away, I found myself reflecting on my experiences there.
If this was an AV piece, now would be the time that the scratchy rewind sound is played.
There are two major universities in Fredericton and they share the same campus and the same GBLTQ group for students and the larger community. (They call themselves Spectrum and to this day I have never encountered a better name for a group such as this). Upon attending the first meeting of the new school year, I was asked by the three returning members of the executive committee to attend the next two meetings which, according to their constitution, would qualify me to be elected to the executive committee. I was from “away” and was the only female, so I scored points there, I suppose. Needless to say, I went, they voted and elected I was.
There were no rainbow stickers to be seen in any store windows and furthermore, none were available for purchase. When Spectrum made it our mission to get the downtown business merchants on board with the gay agenda, I had to pick-up rainbow stickers in Montreal while passing through during Christmas break.
Fredericton *does* have a bar for us! It is called boom! nightclub and according to their website, they aim to provide “all people of Fredericton, regardless of sexuality, a world-class place to party and be themselves.” Hmmm, so not exactly a gay bar, but we’ll take it! Although there were no pride stickers outside either; I was told that the risk of the windows being smashed was not worth it.
The Pride Parade of the summer of 2005 was an entry in the Canada Day Parade comprised of two guys and a banner.
When my straight friend went home to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia she called me to say that she missed the gay culture of Fredericton that she had come to love and appreciate (?!).
The culture of remaining closeted, sadly, seemed to run deep.
Furthermore, after I moved away, but just three summers ago, the mayor of Fredericton made the Pride Week proclamation only after he was ordered to by the provincial Human Rights Commission. He turned his microphone off before doing so. And this summer’s pride parade is only the second annual! Although it will take place on the walking path down by the St. John River, it does not involve closure of the downtown core like most Canadian pride parades.
All this to say that Fredericton is not exactly a mecca of gay culture and there is much work still to be done when it comes to acceptance of sexual minorities on the part of the general public, and, I would venture to say, the minorities themselves. Events planned for Fredericton Pride in the upcoming days are integral to fostering both. I wish I could be there once again to add my presence and my voice to the movement and celebrations.
For more info: http://www.frederictonpride.org/events/