The Birth of Thunder Pride

The Inside Scoop on the Beginning of Thunder Bay's LGBTQ Pride Festival

In 2010, just five days before Christmas, a group of wonderful and enthusiastic folks crammed into a small, but cozy, union office space to discuss and ultimately plan a week-long LGBTQ2+ pride event for the city of Thunder Bay.

Throughout the years, there have been many initiatives, programs, centres and events that have transpired, specifically for people, and friends and families of the LGBTQ community. All this was accomplished through individuals – activists and advocates fueled with their passion to create safe and positive spaces throughout the city. The foundation was laid preparing an opportunity for like-minded people to come together.

Two friends and mothers – one two-spirited, one the mother of a (quite handsome) young gay man – had something in common. Ellen Chambers, an educator and local ETFO (Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario) president, was relentless in advocating for anti-bullying of LGBTQ2+ youth in schools. She accomplished this after years of perseverance in her stand for human rights. Rachel Mishenene, an Aboriginal educator and also an active union member – who, a few years prior, flew out of the closet with rainbow garb galore – had a conversation with her (also handsome) son after leaving a Pride event just south of the border. He asked his mom why Thunder Bay didn’t have a Pride event, and said Thunder Bay should have one.

trees wrapped in flags

Well, Rachel being Rachel, and Rachel knowing Ellen, and their shared passion for social justice, had a chat. Both agreed that it was time! They’d do it! Through the helpful assistance of a fabulous gal, Valerie Dugale, a union friend from the ETFO provincial office who provided support in drafting a plan. The ambitious plan and invitation was sent off to many local unions, organizations, groups, and like-minded individuals. The response was immediate and overwhelming! Over twenty people met December 20, 2010, at the local ETFO office, setting aside their hectic Christmas plans. The annual event was on for June – including a full week of activities ranging from an art show, drag show, pub night, pride awareness breakfast, literary night, memory walk, film night, smudge, spiritual services and pride in the park music festival! No one day event for these excited volunteers – all out or nothing!

2014 Thunder Pride - Photo by Brian Holden
2014 Thunder Pride - Photo by Brian Holden

Well, Thunder Pride is now celebrating its 12th annual pride event! This is all made possible through the foundations that were set, through the ongoing efforts of all the volunteers (both straight and LGBTQ2+ – all just caring people), and through the support of local businesses, community organizations, unions, individuals and the folks at City Hall. Thunder Pride is not just for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-, or queer/questioning peoples, but for everyone who believes and agrees that we all should be safe and be proud of our identities in the city we’ve all come to call home – Thunder Bay (which is also the traditional land of the Ojibway people of the Fort William First Nation and the historic Métis community.)

2013 Flag Raising
2013 Flag Raising

This year the Thunder Pride line-up is full again. Visit the Thunder Pride facebook page for info on all of this year's events! 

See you at Pride!

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