For Nicole Clark, seeing the swell of support from the local community during the 2023 edition of the Windsor-Essex Pride parade was greatly appreciated.
“Growing up queer, you find your community as you’re growing up,” the actor with Korda Artistic Productions (KAP) said. “It’s like coming home…You’re born with a family and then you find your family growing up.”
She says the performing arts have also helped her find community.
“You find your theatre and you find your family of 40 people that are going to support you as well,” she said.
Clark and the rest of KAP are putting together productions of She Kills Monsters and The Rocky Horror Show which will be performed at the KordaZone Theatre in September and October respectively. Both shows have been praised for their depictions of LGBTQ characters.
Clark, along with her fellow performers and directors, were dressed up as characters from the two plays.
“To be able to get together with people that you love and put on shows that make you feel like you’re part of a family, it’s wonderful for people to celebrate that in October when [we’re] putting on the shows and also share a little bit at Pride.”
Jeremy Burke, a fellow actor with KAP says they were “born and raised on Pride.”
“I’ve been going to Pride since I can remember,” said Burke. “I’ve been going since it was in Charles Clark Square, then down by the river and now at Lanspeary Park. It’s changed over the years and it’s so wonderful to see how big it’s gotten.”
Burke’s upbringing was vital to accepting their identity.
“I would have never come out as non-binary if not for the safety that I felt in my family growing up,” Burke said.
Burke said despite this, it still took a long time to come out, adding that it meant a lot that their friends were supportive and continued to see them as the same person.
Members of the community who weren’t part of the parade, but watching it travel west on Ottawa Street, were also happy to be part of the festivities in some way. One of them was Michael Cervini, who says it means a lot to see the massive outpouring of support, especially when some people grow up feeling out of place.
“It feels like we do belong and we are accepted and we’re not going anywhere,” Cervini said.
Various community organizations marched in the parade, including unions, post-secondary institutions, local businesses and municipal services, such as Essex Windsor EMS.
“We have so many companies that are allies and they’re coming out loud and proud full of support for us,” said Wendi Nicholson, president of Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, of the roughly 70 parade participants.
“It warms us. It’s an amazing feeling to see so many allies coming out and being involved in the parade.”
Even provincial politicians showed up to march in the parade like Andrew Dowie, Windsor-Tecumseh MPP.
“This is a phenomenal event to be a part of,” he said. “It’s a terrific boost to everyone who’s feeling vulnerable, everyone who’s feeling left out, that the community is here to show their support for them.”
Windsor-West MPP Lisa Gretzky was there alongside Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles.
“You can feel the love here,” said Stiles. “It’s more important than ever that we’re all out supporting Pride, supporting the community and speaking out against hate.”
Gretzky says the lesson out of Pride is that the community needs “to be louder and we need to love harder in order to support people from the LGBTQ community.”
Originally published by CBC Windsor