Several years ago, the Ontario Public Service started what they called “employee networks” to encourage people from different backgrounds to interact and get to know each other. There is a disability network which I’m involved with, but the one that I’ve had much more activity with is the Pride Network. I’m currently the Co-chair of the Outreach Committee and Director of their Speaker’s Bureau, so I go out several times a year (June is the busiest month) to speak about LGBT issues and gay rights.
I’ve also become the photographer for the group: I’ve taken pictures in the past for my own records and to help me remember different events. I took some shots at several of the previous get-togethers, and I have generally put them on my flickr page under a set relating to my work for the Ministry of the Environment. We’ve had several anniversary lunches; we’ve had Trey Anthony (Da Kink in my Hair) and Mark Tewksbury (Olympic gold medallist who came out) speak; we walked in the Toronto Pride parade 2010 (and as of this writing, have also done so in 2011). When we planned our fourth anniversary lunch, I had more of an “official” designation. So I ran around, snapping pictures whenever I could and interacting socially whenever I had to. (In general, people don’t “notice” the photographer as he or she runs around taking pictures: but I also needed to identify myself because of my roles with the group.)
We had several speakers, all of whom were encouraging and powerful, as well as several honoured guests. (It was here that I actually first met Barbara Hall.) All of them applauded our efforts for coming this far with the network so quickly, and working against continued discrimination. And all of them told us not to become complacent. In the current climate, with tightening budgets and shortfalls of funds, minority rights are potentially the first to suffer.
After the speakers had given their remarks, we had a flag-raising. Unlike the city of Toronto, which raises the pride flag over city hall every year at the beginning of pride week, the province of Ontario only raises flags that have been approved: and the pride flag has not (yet… we’re working on it). So we had our own little flag-raising, there in the rooms of the Parliament building. It wasn’t quite the same effect, but it was still enjoyable. And perhaps a bit more personal.
There are more pictures on my Flickr site.