Communities along the border between Rainy River District and Koochiching County are gearing up to celebrate LGBTQ2 Pride in a uniquely international fashion.
This Saturday (July 14), they'll host one of the world's first Pride parades that crosses an international border.
“Figuratively speaking, Pride has always been about crossing the line and pushing boundaries,” said Douglas Judson, co-chair of Borderland Pride.
“Pride marches around the world have evolved from protests and public demonstrations for LGBTQ2 equality,” he noted.
“In many places, they are still part of that fight for LGBTQ2 people to live their lives openly.”
Borderland Pride's '“Passport to Pride" march is part of the region's very first "Pride Week” celebration.
The pedestrian march follows a path from Smokey Bear Park in International Falls to the Civic Centre in Fort Frances—a distance of 1.6 km (one mile) along a route that has been co-ordinated with customs officials.
March participants must have appropriate identification and meet entry requirements.
“We began the planning process over a year ago and quickly learned that despite the small size of our communities, there was a lot of appetite for opportunities to demonstrate allyship,” said Judson.
“We found that people wanted ways to celebrate LGBTQ2 inclusion—and to challenge those places where it is still an issue.”
Fort Frances has a population of 8,000 and International Falls has a population of 6,000. The combined population of their respective districts is roughly 30,000.
“We initially pursued this vague idea of doing the march across the border because we wanted to plan a fun event that brought the communities and their small numbers of LGBTQ2A residents together,” Judson explained.
“But since then, the border has become a flashpoint in the political world and the march has come to stand for something far greater.”
Judson cited the Trump administration's posturing about a border wall, its recent policy of separating families at the border, and the trade tensions flaring up between the U.S. and Canada—in addition to the U.S. administration's disregard for LGBTQ2 people and the threats to their rights that may be ushered in with the next U.S. Supreme Court appointment.
“Pride, at its core, has always been about building bridges between people and recognizing our shared humanity,” said Judson.
"We don't mean to water down the fact that Pride is about affirming and advocating for the equality of LGBTQ2 people but in these challenging times, we stand with other equity- and justice-seeking people in search of safety, understanding, and basic fairness and dignity.
“The LGBTQ2 community recognizes that struggle, and we continue to revisit it ourselves,” Judson added.
“Both Borderland and Pride have always been about recognizing commonality in our neighbours—and that spirit knows no border,” he stressed.
Borderland Pride was founded in 2017 and since has been tasked with providing networking, educational, and ally engagement programming in the Borderland region.
Pride Week 2018 runs from July 9-15 and has been recognized by official proclamations of a number of the area's municipal governments.
“Pride is often needed most where its constituents are least visible, in the small corners of our two countries,” said Judson.
"That's the need we intend to fill.
“Reinforcing and showcasing that sense of inclusion and welcome is central to the social and economic future of these remote communities,” he noted.