Event organizer

Steinbach Pride organizer says community is changing

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Chris Plett says he has personally witnessed changing opinions and attitudes towards LGBTQ people and issues in his home community since the first Steinbach Pride Parade in 2016.

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“Things wouldn’t change in the community without these events and these conversations that we’ve started,” Plett, chairman of the Steinbach Pride committee, said Friday as he and others prepare to host Steinbach Pride. 2022. event this Sunday in the southeastern Manitoba city that is home to about 17,000 people.

“And things wouldn’t change without the stories we tell to our allies, but also to people who may not agree, or who may not accept or understand.”

Steinbach Pride held its first event in Steinbach in 2016, and this event made national headlines that year due to differing opinions about holding a Pride event in an area often referred to as that province’s Bible Belt.

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When the 2016 Pride Parade was first announced, it also made headlines because of who didn’t show up, as Steinbach MP Kelvin Goertzen, Provencher MP Ted Falk and Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen were not all present.

Plett said they would be holding a “scaled-down” event on Sunday than in previous years, and after being forced to cancel the past two years due to the pandemic, but found a way to make this event year not only a walk but also about people sharing stories and having conversations.

“It’s good to have the parade, but it’s also good to have conversations and listen to people’s stories,” he said.

According to Plett, there will be speakers who will appear on stage during the event and tell stories and answer questions about their own experiences.

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“In the past, people have come to give speeches, and we wanted to do a bit more,” he said.

Plett said these conversations are important to show support for members of the LGBTQ community, but also to help young people who might be struggling with questions about their own sexuality and to talk about it with their own family, friends or peers.

“It can let them know they’re not alone, but it also gives them an opportunity to talk to people who will accept and understand what they’re going through, if maybe they can’t have that kind of supportive conversations at home.

“With these type of stories people can tell, and they often say ‘hey, that’s what I’m going through. “”

The Steinbach-based Hannover School Division (HSD) has also made headlines for its relationship with LGBTQ students and their families in recent years. In May 2016, Steinbach’s mother Michelle McHale tried to make changes to the HSD program after her 12-year-old son was bullied for having two mothers, but administrators voted against those changes.

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And in 2013, when Steinbach alum Evan Wiens worked to start a gay-straight alliance at public Steinbach High School, he was told he could start the group, but the division wouldn’t allow him to. originally promote the group publicly through posters or other images at school or on school grounds.

According to Plett, holding Pride events in Steinbach has made some young people feel more comfortable with themselves and more accepted by others and they hope to continue to see attitudes change and evolve in Steinbach.

“I’ve received feedback and personally seen that the youth in the community feel more free to be themselves,” Plett said.

This year’s Steinbach Pride event kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday at KR Barkman Park in Steinbach, and those who attend will march along Main Street and back to the park where speakers will address the crowd.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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