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Arthur-Pigeon students show their Pride in the streets of Huntingdon

At École Sécondaire Arthur-Pigeon (EAP), an LGBTQ2SIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, intersex, asexual, plus) committee has been spending the 2021-2022 school year organizing different activities to raise awareness of queer issues. These activities culminated in a Pride parade through Huntingdon on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia on May 17.

A drag performance of both queens and kings took place before the parade began. Teachers handed out coloured shirts to each grade level, and the students together created a rainbow as they marched the streets of Huntingdon. The entire school participated in the parade.

Students from Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) attended the event as well. Robidoux says, “The principal at CVR right now reached out to our principal at the beginning of the year, and wanted us to work together on projects,” which is a new initiative. Over 30 CVR students participated in the parade.
Though the crowds along the parade route were not huge, they still cheered loudly and showed lots of enthusiasm.

 

Students marched through the streets on Huntingdon in order to raise awareness for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

At lunch hour, different community organizations arrived, such as the LGBT+ group JAG and Le Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi de Huntingdon. The parade was put on with the help of Le Carrefour Jeunesse-emploi and financed by La Stratégie Jeunesse.

Sabrina Robidoux, the recreation technician at the school, explains that an event like this takes a lot of planning. “We have to talk to the SQ, then we have to ask permission from the town for non-numbered streets; and for the numbered streets we had to send a request to the Minister of Transportation,” she explains.

The school has done other parades before, though this was the first for this specific occasion. Unfortunately, it may be the last due to uncertainty about police availability for future parades, and private security agencies are too expensive

This was the final activity put on by the committee for this school year, but it had organized many others. The first was a guest appearance by the iconic Montreal drag queen, Barbada (coach on OutTV’s Call Me Mother). She came to talk about her coming out, the art of drag, and she helped put a teacher in drag. Later in the year, she returned with Montreal’s infamous drag queen and Valley native, Kitana Sweett, to put on a performance.

During the year the school also did screenings of queer movies and was supposed to have a visit by queer actor Annie Lavoie. Unfortunately, Lavoie came down with COVID and had to cancel, but the committee is hoping she’ll return next year.

Creating open-mindedness

The committee was determined to put on a parade to get their message of support out into the community. Robidoux explains that the students “think that there’s still a lot of work to do in our town for the acceptance of different people, since it’s a small rural community. For them, it was important to create more open-mindedness.”

The change they wanted to implement started within the walls of their school. “With the first event, there were a lot of students that were a bit close-minded and were making negative comments,” says Robidoux. With resources from the school, and exposure to events through the committee’s activities, some of these students were able to come around.

Ultimately, Robidoux explains that the students on the committee took “students who were a bit more closed-off and put them in contact with people from the queer community.” That kind of impact will last far longer than the school year. “The students who were hesitant came back and admitted that they were uncomfortable … but after these events, they say that they know it’s normal and that it’s a part of life. It was huge,” says Robidoux. Generally, students were thrilled to be able to stand up for such an important cause and are excited for what is to come.

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