This June offers us many moments of reflection, introspection, and contemplation about how we participate in the world. Not only is June Indigenous History Month, but it is also LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and it is a month in which we are experiencing unprecedented climate events. How do we show up in the world, and how do we make our lives as hospitable as possible?
On June 2nd, I attended the Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s drag show. Hosted in the Isabelle McLaughlin Gallery as part of the RMG’s First Friday events, the show featured local performers Orlandra Bloom, Big D. Elle, Kali Kontour, and Audrey Gold Bloom. The night got even better as I entered the lobby and realized it was a catered event. The food was provided by Dine & Style, featuring tacos and a delicious avocado crema. Isabella’s Chocolate Café was also present, highlighting rainbow confection creations. I got the sour gummy bears, although I was also eyeing the sugar cookies.
Inside, the room was lit for a real party. There was a runway for performers to fully express themselves, lined by enthusiastic patrons on each side. The music was uplifting, the performances were high energy, and the audience was there to show pride in Oshawa’s LGBTQ+ community. It was welcoming and warm. The RMG’s CEO, Lauren Gould, was a butterfly making sure everyone’s needs were met and that the space made a statement. We all whooped as Kali Kontour reminded us that “pride is a protest.”
While it is true that Pride Month is a celebration of identities and a recognition of struggles, it is also a harrowing moment of redoubling our efforts for liberation. The Oshawa Public Library (McLaughlin Branch) is hosting Drag Queen Storytime from 11am -1pm on Saturday, June 11th. Please show up to show support to our LGBTQ+ communities connected near and far, as well as to keep the space full of as many supporters as possible. Our voices and visibility matter, especially as books, education, and learning are regarded as frontiers. A queen can read me their history anytime. It is in the fabric of who we are.
The same weekend, June 10-11, Oshawa will serve as host to the annual Peony Festival, an outdoor vendor's market. I anticipate that the event will include many opportunities to support 2-Spirit, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ vendors. I hope to give more financial support to The No BS Label, Afro-Indigenous and 2-Spirited Lesbian craft makers whose works are beautiful and political. Put your money where your support is, and be sure to buy from vendors representing our communities that deserve equity, stability, representation, and income.
From June 24th- January 15th, frequent the RMG for the “Queering the Collection” exhibition. As explained on the gallery’s website, ““Queer” as a term is often used as shorthand for the wider 2SLGBTQIA+ community… Queerness has always been present in the arts but has historically depended on artists remaining invisible and unnamed. Rediscovering and acknowledging the queer stories of these artists, explicit or covert, adds a valuable layer to the interpretation of their work. The featured artists have used their artwork as an outlet to explore themselves, seek change, and redefine the world around them. Some artists lived openly, sharing their lives and experiences publicly through art, some we may only be able to speculate about, while others lived quietly during a time when their private lives were criminalized.” To explore these themes more in-depth, check out the Curatorial Tour of "Queering the Collection" on the evening of June 29th.
Suppose galleries and festivals of vendors are not your scene. In that case, you can also patronize Oshawa's Club 717 year-round – "the hottest LGBTQ+ social club in Durham Region for the past 35 years." Their calendar features Bingo, drag, social nights, euchre, and more. The not-for-profit establishment has deep roots in the Oshawa community, showing solidarity with tenants of freedom and self-expression. Don’t visit only because it’s Pride Month. Go all the time. Keep the community safe. Enjoy the vibrant culture curated by Queer expression.
It is months like this that make intersectionality powerful. There are several identities and histories that deserve our attention and intention 365 days of the year. Taking seriously the uplifting of Truth and Reconciliation pillars includes unlearning hate and discrimination of all kinds. Remembering that Every Child Matters includes encouraging our local libraries to host story times that amplify drag queens. It means reading Cherie Dimaline, Richard Wagamese, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Thomas King, and more. It means really contemplating the art of Christi Belcourt, Robert Houle, Alex Janvier, and more. It means looking at that art, allowing yourself to feel it, and hearing it against the backdrop of Water Protectors like Autumn Peltier, and Land Defenders of Wet'suwet'en. Acknowledging the land means feeling that it still pulsates with the power of the people who work, create, and live as fulsomely as possible to renew humanity for the freedom of everyone.