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Youth
 
Northern Mayor Warm to Pride
 

by Gilles Marchildon

GAYS and lesbians in one of Northern Canada's largest cities can come in from the cold and come 'out' in Pride.

The Mayor of Whitehorse, Yukon, officially proclaimed July 2nd gay and lesbian Pride at the request of the local Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA).  Led by board member Will Petricko, GALA sent a letter to City Hall asking for council to declare officially the first-ever Whitehorse Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual Pride Day.

"We got it to the council and the mayor proclaimed it without hesitation," says Petricko.  "I think Whitehore is more ready for us than we are to come out."

Petricko seems to be the town's new gay media darling.  He was featured in the June 28th edition of the Yukon News when he won a national composer's award to write an anthem for the 75th anniversary of the United Church.  The article dealt openly with Petricko's sexual orientation, including his crediting of partner Russ Haggerty as being an inspiration to his music.  The article also indicated:  "Petricko's resolution of the issues surrounding his own sexual orientation had a lot to do with his creative breakthrough," quoting the composer as saying "because it takes a lot of energy to stay in the closet."

When Petricko came to the paper less than two days later to run a quarter page ad with the Pride Proclamation, he was given a significant discount.  "When I mentioned I was paying for it out of my own pocket they gave me 50% off and when the editor, whom I know, came by and I thanked him, he just asked 'When's the parade?' "

Petricko is the job site co-ordinator for a local school's Work Experience Life Skills Program.  In the recent GALA newsletter, he wrote a piece entitled 'Spirit Weavers' where he asks himself and readers two questions.  "Several events surrounding that simple letter have led me into some deep uncharted waters.  Am I REALLY ready to be here as a fully OUT gay man?  What is pride anyway?"

It would seem that he is indeed ready.  At the same time, Whitehorse also seems ready to embrace its gay and lesbian community members.

Pride proclamations in many cities across Canada have sparked controversy.  While they are fully accepted in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto, it's been a rough road in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and London, Ontario.  In both cases, the local gay and lesbian community brought forward discrimination cases before the provincial Human Rights Commissions.

Interestingly, Winnipeg's openly gay mayor Glen Murray has shunned Proclamations altogether.  His predecessor Mayor Susan Thompson stopped issuing mayoral proclamations entirely when she noted that other cities' mayors were being called up on the human rights carpet for not proclaiming gay and lesbian pride while continuing to issue other kinds of proclamations.  Murray indicated back in his October 1998 election campaign that he would not go back to the tradition of issuing proclamations because he feels they do not fulfill any meaningful purpose.

Gilles Marchildon is the editor of Swerve magazine in Winnipeg.