Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Rainbow flag flies in Pincher Creek

Chris Davis - A small crowd of approximately 35 citizens, dignitaries, and area media gathered at the flagpoles on the Pincher Creek Multipurpose Facility lawn yesterday evening, June 12 for an LGBTQ Pride flag-raising event, held two years to the day after the terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida. The Pulse Nightclub incident resulted in 49 dead and 53 injured, "the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history."  The flag raising was a first in Pincher Creek, and was the result of a successful petition to the Town of Pincher Creek's council by Pincher Creek Echo Editor Andrew Glen McCutcheon.  Events of a similar nature were held at numerous locations in Alberta and North America this week.

Dignitaries in attendance included Town of Pincher Creek Councillors Scott Korbett, Wayne Elliott, and Brian McGillivray, and  MD of Pincher Creek Reeve Quentin Stevick and Councillor Bev Everts.

Judith Walker of the United Church led with a prayer, reminding everyone that we are all "the rainbow people of God".  Town councillor Scott Korbett spoke next, saying "We want to stand in solidarity with those who have been persecuted, bullied, injured or murdered because of who they are and those they love."  "Those who are part of the LGBTQ community are our friends, family, and co-workers and we seek to provide a caring, inclusive and most importantly, safe community for each person living in and visiting Pincher Creek.  My hope today by raising the Pride flag is to honour those who have been persecuted and to create an opportunity for dialogue on what a safe, inclusive community looks like here in Pincher Creek."  MD of Pincher Creek Reeve Quentin Stevick spoke next, saying that when he had been recently asked by a guest what Pincher Creek was like he used the words "Progressive, Libertarian, red-neck, conservationist" and "I would also like to add the words tolerance, and acceptance."

Andrew McCutcheon

Pincher Creek Pride founder and Echo Editor Andrew McCutcheon spoke last, reminding everyone of the history, challenges and dangers of being LGBTQ before telling the story of  'The Saint of Dry Creek' (illustrated in the video below).  Then McCutcheon raised the rainbow flag to fly next to the Canada and Alberta flags, which was followed by a moment of silence to remember those who have been killed for their sexual orientation.


McCutcheon appeared before Town Council at their February 26 meeting to present Pincher Creek Pride's proposal for "a small ceremony and the raising of a Pride flag outside Town Hall on June 12th".  According to a report in this publication by Jonathan Skrimshire, "After a brief discussion at their March 7 meeting, Council agreed to relocate the event, initially proposed to take place at Pincher Creek Town Hall, to the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds. Protocol issues with the single Town Hall flagpole, which bears the Canadian flag, necessitated the shift of venue. The Multi-Purpose Facility site features three flag poles, which currently bear the flags of Canada, Alberta and the Town of Pincher Creek."  The Pride flag will replace the Pincher Creek flag for a week.

I spoke online with McCutcheon, who identifies as queer,  a few days before the flag raising.  I asked him what his personal motivation was to ask for and participate in the event.  "When I originally moved to Pincher Creek, it was from Vancouver, where I definitely felt more comfortable in my own skin. However, as I quickly came to realize, Pincher Creek is a place filled with welcoming, open-minded and generous folks. I felt like I wanted everyone to know what kind of place Pincher Creek is while at the same time showing people who may have lived here all their lives, that although small, there is a population of LGBTQ2S individuals here. I decided to do it on the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre as that event had a pretty intense effect on me when it occurred. No one should have to be afraid to live their best life.  Having said that, no place is perfect. Pride is also a time where we have the chance to talk about the issues that continue to face the queer community, in Canada and beyond."

I asked McCutcheon if local people have been supportive or dismissive of his initiative.  "I think rural communities have a reputation for being less accepting of different identities, but I've faced more homophobia in larger urban settings than I have here in Pincher Creek. I also think that, even in the past decade, things have changed across Canada - and the world - to be better."

"I've already had people tell me that they never dreamed one day Pincher Creek would host such an event. That's really heartwarming for me. I hope people come to realize that although LGBTQ individuals are just like everyone else, at the same time, they face really unique challenges and fears other people don't. Ignorance is always the enemy, and if we can help educate even a few people, then it's a success in my eyes."

(date corrected for accuracy)

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