A unique event happening in Napanee this Saturday will bring together superstars of the queer rights movement and those who want to learn from them.
“It is brand new, and there’s nothing like it in the region at all,” said Tiffany Lloyd of Greater Napanee Pride, the organization spearheading the first-ever Pride Summit, taking place this Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023.
Lloyd explained, “Where it started and where it is now are a little bit different.” Originally she realized while establishing Greater Napanee Pride that numerous conversations were happening with other local Pride boards about the struggles of having a group of ever-enthusiastic volunteers who “are really passionate about creating safe spaces for their community but who may have limited board experience.”
So the benefits of learning from experts in a number of different fields seemed like a great reason to gather. Lloyd said, “Whether that’s advocacy, or governance and board dynamics, or… just getting inspired together by some incredible folks who’ve been advocating for queer rights since before I was born… that’s where [the idea of a summit] started. “
However, as the idea picked up traction, a large number of high school-aged people expressed interest. “They’re not on local Pride boards; some of them are in GSAs [Gender Sexuality Alliances] at their schools, but they’re getting the opportunity to learn from absolute legends,” Lloyd enthused.
For example, one of the keynote speakers, Rev. Cheri DiNovo, “is incredible,” said Lloyd. “She’s an absolute legend.”
DiNovo is a former Member of the Provincial Parliament known by her colleagues as the “queen of tri-party bills” for tabling the most bills in the Legislature that have received support from all of Ontario’s three major parties. As an MPP, DiNovo introduced more successful LGBTQ+ bills to a legislature or parliament than anyone in Canadian history. These include Toby’s Act (named after DiNovo’s deceased transgender friend and congregant, Toby Dancer), which added trans rights to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012; the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, which banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth in 2015; Cy and Ruby’s Act, which established parent equality for LGBTQ+ parents in 2015; and the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in 2017. DiNovo also performed the first gay wedding in Canada.
“So the fact that she’s coming to Napanee… of course, students are taking that opportunity [to hear her speak],” said Lloyd. “And we have professionals, people both inside and outside of the Pride community,… advocates and allies and people who just want to learn more and hear these incredible speakers. So it’s a blend of inspiration and learning. Attendees can expect to be energized and learn from absolute experts.”
The second keynote address will be given by Tim McCaskell. From 1974 to 1986, McCaskell was a member of the collective that ran The Body Politic, Canada’s iconic gay liberation journal. He was a founding member of AIDS ACTION NOW! and a spokesperson for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. He also authored the books Queer Progress: From Homophobia to Homonationalism and Race to Equity: Disrupting Educational Inequality.
McCaskell sent a comment expressing the importance of the upcoming summit: “Bigger cities have bigger queer communities and have held visible Pride celebrations for years. But queer people are everywhere, and visibility in local and rural communities is enormously important in challenging the rising homophobia and transphobia that we see emerging around us.”
“[McCaskell] was fighting the police in Toronto at the bathhouse raids. He’s an expert in queer history,” said Lloyd. “But why does that matter today? What should we know about our history? What should be looking at now as cues to what we should be doing and where we should be going?” she asked rhetorically.
“Other workshops and learning opportunities at the summit include Board Governance 101: Best Practice for a Pride Organization Success with Alison Clark; Team Building & Conflict Resolution with Kelly Dear; a 2 Spirit Panel discussion; and Self-Advocacy with Dr. Lee Airton.
Reached for comment, workshop leader Kelly Dear stated, “This rare rural Pride Summit is critical in that we are working to cultivate a consistent culture of care that our youth need and deserve. [The event] brings together a calibre of personal and professional change makers from multiple areas, essentially for the first time. We will have big-P politics, small p-politics, and plain ole’ people, all with lived experiences within the rainbow continuum.”
Lloyd and the rest of Napanee Pride are “beyond excited” to host this first annual Pride Summit and hope it will be the perfect platform for Pride board members, volunteers, and advocates across the region to connect, learn, and share knowledge.
“The summit is for everyone who wants to learn,” Lloyd emphasized. “You don’t have to be queer, and you don’t have to be from Napanee; we hope people from all over Ontario will attend.”
Tickets to the September 23 summit, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Napanee Secondary School, can be purchased on the Greater Napanee Pride Website. Tickets include lunch and refreshments throughout the day. Regular tickets are $100, and student/youth (under 18) tickets are $50.