Flags raised in Oxford and Huron counties to mark start of Pride month

Woodstock Mayor Jerry Acchione, left, and Oxford County Pride Committee president Tami Murray at the progress Pride flag raising ceremony on June 1, 2023. Tami Murray

Despite the recent controversy in Norwich Township, area Pride officials say they look forward to a month of celebration, education and continued protest.

Progress Pride flags were raised across Oxford County Thursday and in Goderich for Huron County to mark the start of Pride month.

In Oxford, seven flag-raising ceremonies were held across multiple municipalities, including Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll.

One place without Pride flags on municipal property is Norwich, which recently banned all non-civic flags on municipal property. The 3-2 decision resulted in Ward 2 Coun. Alisha Stubbs resigning from her seat before the end of the meeting when the vote occurred.

Tami Murray, president of the Oxford County Pride Committee, says she believes narratives from the United States have trickled into communities in Canada, “giving people permission to express their negative narratives.”

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But despite those narratives, Murray says the LGBTQ2 community in Oxford is strong and ready to stand up.

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“Pride is protest, and we need to continue to protest for our human rights,” said Murray.

Despite Norwich council’s decision, Murray says a non-denominational service will be held this Sunday at the United Church in Norwich for the second year in a row.

“We have faith, and we want to maintain our faith and I think the rejection from alternative faith is challenging,” said Murray.

Along with the church service, other Pride-centred events in Oxford include a bingo night on June 7 at Upper Thames Brewing co. in Woodstock, drag story time in Ingersoll and Tillsonburg on June 10 and the main Pride festival on June 17 in Woodstock.

With a “Hollywood Glam” theme, the festival will feature drag story time, performances by Josh Braiden and Maxxsinger and henna tattoo art.

While Pride is at its heart a protest event for equality, organizers like Murray and Dawn Allen, the Huron County Pride group vice-chair, say education is a significant component of Pride month.

“With something new and maybe something people don’t understand… this is a way to broaden your horizons and maybe change some minds,” said Dawn ahead of Goderich’s flag-raising.

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For the first time, Huron County will be hosting a Pride festival on June 10.

“The idea behind the festival was to give the queer community and allies a safe place to take up space and to enjoy each other’s company,” said Allen.

The festival will feature morning yoga, a health panel Q&A and drag queen and king performances.

Most Pride events in London do not take place until mid-July. Despite that, Pride flags could be seen waving at police headquarters and all schools in the Thames Valley District School Board beginning on Thursday.

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