Reading the history of Pride in Canada is an exercise in both horror and inspiration. The marginalization and oppression of Canadians—just for being themselves is horrible. The creativity and resilience of those human beings in response to oppression is inspiring.
Pride holds many meanings for many people. For us, it’s a time to reflect on what more we can do to be a welcoming and inclusive space for our 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues and neighbours.
As we celebrate this significant moment, we wanted to share some perspectives from the Spark community on what Pride means to us.
The same opportunities, free of prejudice.
Jen Mulligan, Director of Payroll & HR
As someone who is proudly 2SLGBTQIA+, I’m happy to say that inclusivity is ingrained at Spark. I feel comfortable sharing my story. I love hearing my colleagues’ stories and learning from them.
For me, Pride is a chance to highlight and support queer+ resources and queer-owned community organizations like Kind Space, MAX Ottawa and the Ten Oaks Project, to name just a few. It’s also an opportunity to have productive conversations about identity. And of course, it’s about continuing to reform our society until we truly have access, free of prejudice, to the same opportunities and resources as our straight neighbours do.
There are some elements of Pride I don’t like. My biggest issue is with ‘performance activism’ – which seems to run rampant.
“Performance Activism”, “Pinkwashing”, “Slacktivism” — these are unfortunate trends that are often tied to corporate giants exploiting true activism for profit. When it comes to Pride, many of these corporations are now in the habit of changing their Facebook profiles to something Pride-related. Selling rainbow-themed merchandise one month of the year is also common. What I see is businesses reaping the benefits of Pride without truly acknowledging the human beings behind the cause.
Be there for the fight, not just the party.
Yes, it’s better to put up a symbolic rainbow than not. But, in the queer+ community we have a saying: ‘be there for the fight, not just the party.’ Let’s focus on who and what Pride Season is and was historically about.
Listening, learning, celebrating courage.
Brad Bezan, Founder & CEO
I’m not an expert in this. I still have so much to learn. But I do think that we should celebrate Pride all of the time – not just during the summer.
For me it brings me back to the question I ask a lot: how can Spark be a leader? I don’t want us to be a business that just changes their profile pictures on social media to ‘show support’. That’s not enough.
Obviously, it begins with our hiring practices. Building a genuinely inclusive culture. Really listening to our 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues and making real changes based on their experiences.
It’s also an opportunity to celebrate and learn from those who inspire me most. It’s about celebrating the amazing people who have had the courage to show who they are, even when they knew they wouldn’t be accepted by their community. They’re teaching us all how to be our authentic selves.
The human thing to do.
Oliver Mweneake, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusivity Specialist
For me, Pride is a time to pause and reflect on how our unique identities make each of us who we are. A reminder to be mindful of what it takes to commit to being authentic.
Although I personally do not identify as a 2SLGBTQIA+ community member, I consider myself a supporter and an ally. I try to make every human being I interact with feel embraced and welcome. I am committed to learning and taking the journey alongside those in the Spark community to make it a more diverse, equal, and inclusive work environment.
Pride is a reminder and a call. We must nurture a workplace where all intersecting identities are celebrated. Where diversity, equity and inclusion are pursued, not just because it’s the legal and ethical thing to do, but because it’s the human thing to do. We must talk the talk and walk the walk. We must do this daily in order to shine. In order to be the vibrant community and the human beings we’re meant to be.
Connected. Loved. Free.
Julie Kevan, Caregiver (Alum)
Pride, for me, is about highlighting the need for equal rights and opportunities, but also about making people feel safe and included. As individuals, and as members of society.
As someone who identifies as bisexual, I think it’s so important for the queer community to have safe space. To feel fully embodied and connected to the wider community. For many years I didn’t even know this was an option, because of the religious context I was raised in.
As a kid I was told, “it’s not natural. It’s not of God.” Some people I love still feel the need to declare their traditional beliefs on sexuality. I find this really hard at times. I think it’s unnecessary and harmful. But I try to be loving and understanding of other peoples’ journeys.
I understand, profoundly, the importance of unconditional love and non-judgment. The importance of feeling freely and confidently who you are, without apologies. At it’s best, that’s what Pride makes me feel.
We’ve come such a long way. We still have a long way to go.