Reason #37 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'


By Emil Tiedemann

Coming out is difficult. Especially when you don’t have the support or advice you might need to guide you through such a complicated and unforeseeable process. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any advice and I didn’t know if I would have the support when I decided to finally stop hiding from the person I was born to be. 

But, in the end, I made it out okay. Not everyone does, however. Some don’t make it out at all. Less than ten years ago, I would’ve given Edmonton a failing grade on its progress and support of the LGBTQ+ community here, but that’s because I simply wasn’t aware of the all the programs and organizations in our town that are set up for folks such as myself (iSMSS, Pride Centre, TESA, etc.). And also, because things have gotten a lot better for Edmonton’s queer populace rather rapidly since then. 

The sidewalks of Whyte Avenue brighten up during Pride in Edmonton!

I think back to the days of Delwin Vriend, one of the most important figures in Canada’s own gay revolution. He was a teacher right here in Edmonton at King’s University, and he was also openly gay. King’s, a Christian institute, fired Vriend because of his sexuality, igniting a bitter and lengthy court battle that changed the way some Albertans looked at or treated people who happened to be gay. They had to! 

That was back in the ‘90s, at a time when Michael Phair was sitting on City Council as the province’s first openly gay elected official, and one of the first in the country. Phair has also been one of the most assertive and effective voices for LGBTQ+ people in Edmonton, though he’s put up with some harsh feedback and even death threats over the years. 

That was not uncommon for anyone who openly identified as L,G,B,T, or Q, and it certainly hasn’t gone away completely. But things are much better, and we’re making strides in terms of acceptance and understanding of people who happen to be gay, as well as rewriting the laws and regulations to reflect that change. 

We’ve still got a long way to go, yes, but we’re headed in the right direction. For example, in June 2014, 12-year-old Wren Kauffman was presented with a brand new birth certificate to emulate his true gender, after he filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Now, surgery or physical proof of gender is no longer required by law in order to alter one’s own birth certificate. 

Justin Trudeau walking in Edmonton's Pride Parade in 2015.

Just a year before that, Master Warren Officer John McDougall proudly raised the pride flag at CFB Edmonton, marking the first time this had ever been done at a Canadian military base. And just a year prior to that, Alison Redford became the first Alberta Premier to appear at the Edmonton Pride Festival, itself one of the first in Canada (est. 1980). Oh, and of course there was the sudden arrival of those bold rainbow crosswalks in Old Strathcona to celebrate Pride 2015, the first time in Alberta! 

These examples, and many others through the years have made Edmonton one of the most LGBTQ-friendly places perhaps in the world, itself a progressive ally of the pride community, learning from its past mistakes and making the effort to right its own wrongs. 

I’m sure I speak on behalf of most of the local LGBTQ+ community when I say that we’re proud of how Edmonton has shown its pride, and thankful for all those folks who have made life better for the rest of us by stepping up and becoming leaders that refuse to settle for second class citizenship. 

A big shoutout goes out to folks like Michael Phair, Murray Billett, Marni Panas, Mickey Wilson, Dr. Kristopher Wells, and the countless others behind the scenes. Thank you for showing your Pride! #yegpride


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