The Greater Napanee Gender Sexuality Alliance (GNGSA) formed around a need for increased public awareness about Pride month in the Town. And they now have a way to show Pride in every corner of the municipality with Pride picnic tables across Greater Napanee.
At the official unveiling of the first Pride table, Brad Way said that he posted on the Facebook page ‘What’s going on Napanee’ outlining several Pride initiatives neighbouring municipalities participate in and wondering whether anyone in Greater Napanee would like to see the same level of celebrations and awareness in Napanee.
He proposed that the town install a rainbow crosswalk like those in Kingston and Loyalist. The post generated over 300 mostly positive and supportive comments, with only a few detractors asking who would pay the expense.
So Way started a GoFundME to take away any financial arguments against the project.
Way said he took this on because he was “Tired of sitting on the sidelines on this issue and I believe in my heart we can do so much more together to support those in our community and for those we love.”
Way has been trying to raise Pride awareness in the town for several years but said that it hadn’t had much impact. Ironically, in that same post was a comment that sparked the formation of a GSA. GNGSA administrator, Michael Wade, explains why Pride recognition is important in small towns.
“It needs to be a bit more visible,” he explained. “Specifically in the original crosswalk post, there was someone who said ‘Well in the town I live in or lived in these crosswalks were places that people would just do burnouts, they purposely deface these crosswalks.”
His answer, “Well, that’s exactly why those crosswalks are there. Those crosswalks are for awareness. They are there for people to have representation, to feel that the community does want that representation there for them. And regardless of whether someone’s going to deface it or not, it’s there, and that’s what matters. And I think that that’s important for youth to see.”
Michael Wade had been a part of GSAs in school, and felt it might be a good time to start one for the town, “So a few of us got together online and said, ‘Okay let’s get it going, let’s create it on Facebook.’ And then, once we’d created it, a smaller group of us discussed what we felt the mission would be, what rules were needed within this Facebook group, and then what is the next step to actually bring Pride more central to Napanee.”
Said Way, “Michael and Chris Beauchesne both started talking about a GSA and I had no idea what that was and I’m still learning, but I think I have a better understanding, I mean it’s fairly simple. But Michael took the initiative to make that happen, make the Facebook group and now we have a community that feels bigger and better than I’ve ever seen in this community. And I know it’s always been there, right? But now it’s solidifying together.”
With the GoFund Me in place, Way called the Mayor of Greater Napanee, Marg Isbester, and approached her about the crosswalk idea. According to Way, “She said that might not be able to happen this year given some of the hurdles that would have to take place in order to make that happen. And then we brainstormed a little bit. She put me in touch with someone from staff from the town and they came up with the idea of painting tables.”
Way says he found the idea intriguing. “I thought it would be great because they would last beyond the month of June,” and the Town offered 16 picnic tables, which the GNGSA could decorate and place in parks across the entire municipality.
Wade said that he grew up in the Camden East area and, as a young gay man, “I left for many years. I faced a lot of adversity, a lot of bullying growing up. I came back two years ago. And I am just so thankful to be part of this group and to move Pride forward.”
Wade said he was encouraged by “The fact that there are so many people who are interested, we have so many allies, so many parents who are seeking to support their children,” and happy to be a part of “more of a representational group of LGBTQ2+ people.”
“I think in time we will seek to have community events,” said Wade, “It’s just wonderful that we’re at the beginning stages. I think awareness and this group getting off the ground really matters.”
Since opening the page on Tuesday, Jun. 1, 2021, the number of members of the Greater Napanee Gender & Sexuality Alliance has risen to 140 people, you can find them on Facebook.