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Amherst raises Pride flag

Gerard Veldhoven speaks during the Pride flag-raising ceremony in Amherst on Wednesday.
Gerard Veldhoven speaks during the Pride flag-raising ceremony in Amherst on Wednesday.

AMHERST, N.S. – Gerard Veldhoven remembers what it was like to show his support for gay rights in the early 1970s and he’s amazed at how accepting the community he called home for many years has become.

Veldhoven was among the speakers to celebrate the raising of the Pride flag at the opening of Pride Week celebrations in Amherst on Wednesday.
“I was advised by many that this move was unwise because of rampant discrimination, but I pressed on with letter writing to politicians, speaking openly to those who would listen and hoped my words would reach those who had closed minds,” Veldhoven said. “Soon, I became very aware that the journey would be challenging and arduous in many ways.
“Here we are 43 years later and now we are able to gather at functions such as Pride flag raising ceremonies and experience a Pride parade in Amherst.”
Veldhoven thanked Amherst for not giving up on the LGBTQ community and supporting him and others when they founded Cumberland Pride in 2006 and hosted several Pride flag-raising events.
He said raising the flag gives people the opportunity to bring together all who recognize the diversity of the population and respect unique qualities everyone possesses.
“The flag remains a symbol of our fight for equality,” Veldhoven said. “We are each and every one of us individuals who seek to be equal in this world where discrimination is rampant. This is reality. However, when we see the rainbow fla raised high on a flagpole, regardless of location, we see the symbol that unites the LGBTQ community and lets the worl know that we are proud and we are not going anywhere.”
He said something he could only dream about in 1974 is becoming more real, but it’s not there yet. He said the flag gives activists and their supporters encouragement to go forward, regardless of the twists and turns along the way.
Rohin McKenney, a member of the Amherst Youth Town Council, said Pride is about celebrating what’s original about everyone.
“I presume everyone here isn’t LGBT or Q or A or B or C and right to Z and in the same way I preseume everyone here isn’t straight as well. We have a mix of people. But everyone that is here is here for one thing, to support the community. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t,” McKenney said. “That is one thing that is different about all of us, but we are here celebrating it and showing how we support each other. We are all original, not different. Celebrate our originality.”
He asked people to think about what they are doing to support everyone in the community when they think about the flag.
Mason Carter, who like McKenney is a Grade 10 student at ARHS, said it’s ironic that someone speaking at a Pride event is not proud of being transgendered, but he said it’s important to realize he’s not ashamed of it either.
“I’m not ashamed of my being transgender, I’m still attempting to understand it all. I love this quality about myself,” Carter said. “The reason I struggle to take pride in this is because I rely too much on other people’s opinions of myself. I rely on how well do I pass as a boy rather than how much I like what I’m wearing. I rely on if I look like a boy, rather than paying attention in class some days, I rely on other people to tell me I look like a boy rather than being able to look in the mirror and tell that to myself.”
He said gender and sexuality are not something you choose and eventually you find out you’re not as “cookie cutter” as you thought you were.
“Pride isn’t about celebrating every last detail of yourself, regardless of what it is,” he said. “The level of pride is impossible to keep; everyone has things they don’t like about themselves. Pride is knowing you are completely correct in every possible way and nothing in the entire universe can change that. The only thing holding you back from happiness is accepting that.”
Emma Brown said she her husband Chris have been very supportive of their daughter Sara, who while born a boy has always thought of herself as a girl. Sara began to ask questions at a young age and express that she felt she should be a girl.
“My husband and I were not surprised and we have always been supportive. The most important thing for us is our children are happy, healthy and true to themselves,” she said.
Last summer, Sara chose to come out publicly and they were a little scared for her and how she would be accepted in the community and her school. However, she said, Sara received overwhelming support from the school, friends, family and the community.
Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Amherst Mayor Dr. David Kogon is joined by Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department in raising the Pride flag in Amherst on Wednesday.
Mason Carter, a Grade 10 student at Amherst Regional High School, speaks about his experiences as a transgender teen during the Pride flag raising ceremony in Amherst on Wednesday.

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