Mayor Lisa Helps (left) holds the gender box, a nod to the gender binary, as Chrys Tei (centre), a member of the City’s ad-hoc trans policy advisory committee, celebrates the raising of the pride flags with Laurie McDonald (right), director of Victoria Pride Society, at City Hall on Monday. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Pride Week kicks off in Victoria with raising of five pride flags

City flies two-spirit, genderqueer and non-binary flags for the first time

To officially kick off Pride Week in Victoria, Mayor Lisa Helps and city council joined members of the city’s LGBTQ community on Monday to raise the pride flags outside City Hall.

Addressing a small crowd assembled beside the flagpole on Pandora Avenue, Helps pointed out this was the first year the City raised five flags to represent the LGBTQ community.

“In the 80’s it was okay to just say ‘the gay community’ or the ‘the queer community’ but as we learn more about each other, and as we learn about queer people who are queer like us, and different from us, we grow as a community,” she said.

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The rainbow-hued pride flag, and the transgender flag (pale blue, pink and white) were raised alongside the two-spirit flag (red and white with rainbow feathers) to honour Indigenous people who carry multiple genders within themselves, the genderqueer flag (purple, white and green) and the non-binary flag (yellow, white, purple, and black) representing those whose identities don’t reflect a specific gender.

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Chrys Tei, a member of the City’s ad-hoc trans policy advisory committee, said Victoria is a good place to be queer, because of its potential to be a community “where diversity is celebrated, not just adjusted.”

“No community is going to be final, or finished with the work,” she added, pointing to reconciliation as a similar journey. “It’s not something we’re going to get done. It’s life work and we have to do it together.”

Victoria City Coun. Marianne Alto prepares the two-spirit flag to be raised at City Hall, kicking off pride week, Monday June 25. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Kingsley Strudwick, a transgender advocate and founder of Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting, spoke of a recent experience chatting with the mother of a nine-year-old boy who was unable to conceive of the gender fluid character in a novel they were reading.

“Our work isn’t done if our presence is still met with surprise and disbelief,” Strudwick said. “We must challenge one another to write new stories; stories that reflect as many realities as there are people to live them.”

The raising of the pride flags marks the start of a week of celebrations with events for all ages across the city, culminating with the July 8 Pride parade and festival, hosted by the Victoria Pride Society.

“My hope is that this Pride Week will serve not only as a platform for raising marginalized voices, but as a catalyst for action throughout the year,” Strudwick said.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

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