This weekend marks the official start of Kingston’s 2023 Pride festival, with events running June 11 to 18 throughout the city. Pride is an annual celebration of Kingston’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community that seeks to raise awareness and honour the community’s rich diversity. “It really is the opportunity of the year for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community to show that they are happy being who they are,” remarked Ian Burns, president of Kingston Pride.
With over a dozen events planned throughout the eight-day festival, Kingston Pride 2023 has something for everyone. Festivities officially get underway on Sunday, Jun. 11 with the Pride Run/Walk set for John Machin Park at 10 a.m. June 12 and 13 will see Pride host a series of game and trivia nights.
Then at dusk on June 14 is a special screening of Rosie, this year’s first movie in Downtown Kingston’s Movies in the Square series. “Rosie is the story of an Indigenous lesbian couple. It’s very funny [and] very heartwarming,” Burns said of the film.
On Friday, Jun. 16, Pride organizers will hold their annual Out on the Queen boat cruise, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. aboard the Island Queen. Meanwhile, at 9 p.m. it’s the weekly Beers for Queers at Monte’s inside the Tir Nan Og pub.
Things kick into high gear on Saturday, Jun, 17, with the Kingston Pride Parade starting at 12 noon through downtown Kingston. “The parade is the main attraction of the festival,” noted Burns. “It’s a chance where all of the community groups and businesses and everyone gets to come out and walk in the parade and show their support of Pride.”
After departing from the Memorial Centre at noon, the parade will make its way along Alfred Street to Princess Street and then down Princess Street, finishing on Ontario Street in front of City Hall. “Everyone is welcome to come and watch the parade, dress up in all their rainbow gear, bring noisemakers, and cheer on people as they walk down the street,” Burns said. “It really is a show of acceptance and love all year round.”
Following the parade, a Community Fair and Beer Garden will be set up in Confederation Basin with special performances from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For the final evening event in this year’s festival, Burns and his team have lined up a special Pride in the Square event in Market Square on June 17. “We’re taking over Market Square with… an all-ages DJ disco dance party, with a drag show featuring Suki Doll, one of the stars of Canada’s Drag Race,” said Burns. Pride in the Square runs from 7 to 10 p.m.
This year’s festival will officially be capped off on Sunday, Jun. 18 with a Pride Drag Brunch at the Wharf and Feather from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., featuring a performance by local drag queen Rowena Whey.
While this year’s festival includes a wide range of events, Burns said organizers felt it was important to prioritize family-friendly programming, including a special Drag Storytime that will take place in the Market Square Amphitheatre on June 17 at 10:30 a.m., in partnership with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. “Parents with children often can’t come out because they have limitations; they can’t bring their kids to events that aren’t all ages or that aren’t during the day. So it’s very important for us to provide that accessibility,” he noted.
“[It’s also important] to provide families with a chance to teach their children about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and… to show them that there’s a breadth of people… who have different genders and sexualities… different colours and backgrounds. It’s important to show that all of these people are accepted,” added Burns.
Not only is Pride a celebration of the local queer community, but the events also give non-queer Kingstonians an opportunity to show their support as allies. “The easiest thing an ally can do is come and show support just by being there. They’re showing a presence of support, doing additional things like learning about all of the different communities within the ‘alphabet mafia,’” Burns remarked, referring to the 2SLGBTQIA+ terminology which not everyone in society may be familiar with. “[It] allows you to be able to support the [community], not just in Pride month, but all year round.”
With ongoing efforts around the world to limit the rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, many feel that Pride festivals are as important now as they ever have been. “There’s definitely been a reversion in the fight for our rights recently, especially in the United States, but it’s happening in Canada as well,” Burns said. “So many people are fighting back against the existence of queer people. And this is something that we’ve fought for for decades now. To see some of our rights being taken away after we’ve fought so long and hard to get them is heartbreaking. It’s [reinforcing] the need for pride to be political, to be about more than just a celebration. It’s about the fight for equality and the fight for acceptance.”
This year’s Pride festivities — including eight days of events as well as a popular parade stretching over two kilometres — appear to be a major step up from the humble beginnings of Kingston Pride. “Our first Pride Parade was back in 1989. It wasn’t actually a parade; it was a sidewalk stroll because we were denied the right to do a parade. People took to the sidewalks, and they showed their pride as a protest against inequality… and a celebration of who we are,” noted Burns.
More than 30 years later, Kingston Pride continues to find new ways to celebrate and promote the local 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Burns said, “I’ve been on the board for four years now, and ever since I’ve joined… Kingston Pride has shown increasing attendance every single year. We’ve had more events, we have more participation, and Kingston has become a much, much better place.”
A complete list of all 2023 Kingston Pride events can be found on the organization’s website, which includes a comprehensive 2023 Pride Guide. Other than the Out on the Queen boat cruise and the Pride Drag Brunch, all events are free and open to all ages.