Cambridge Bay is flying the colourful Pride flag for the first time.
Onnalyssia Ohokak was among the pleased onlookers as the flag was hoisted on June 23, which is recognized as Pride month.
Ohokak, who is entering Grade 12 in the fall, is part of the high school’s Rainbow Army group, where members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and their allies can gather to have conversations in comfort and form plans while feeling supported.
“We just make it a safe place and we talk about if we want to spread awareness around the school and also around the community,” said Ohokak, adding that two to six people usually show up for meetings.
Among the ideas the group came up with was to have the Pride flag be more visible, and that was made possible with help from school staff and the blessing of the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay.
“I just wanted to be celebrating Pride more often and make it more normalized,” Ohokak said following the flag-raising ceremony.
Mayor Pamela Gross said it’s important for the hamlet to be a champion for the cause to ensure everyone in the community feels safe and included.
“I’ve had a few people come forward and come out and I’ve asked how they can be supported. I’m happy they are feeling safe to do so and happy they have ideas and look forward more ways that the LGBT2Q+ community can be supported, and that we can all show our love and support,” said Gross. “The community has embraced Rainbow Army as an active youth initiative in the high school for the past 12 years, and it’s so wonderful to know that there is a space that is well supported and embraced. I’m happy that they are meeting, reaching out and look forward to where and how everyone can feel… safe to embrace and embody their true authentic selves.”
Kyle Mercer and Jason Koblogina exchanged vows in August 2018, making theirs the first same-sex marriage in Cambridge Bay’s history. Mercer said seeing the Pride flag flying in the community reinforces feelings of love, respect and acceptance.
“I gotta say, things are definitely moving in the right direction for us. We have so much support here as a gay couple, from both family and friends, and I feel like the respect and acceptance for the entire community is just growing more and more,” he said. “We feel so much love from everyone we converse with, it’s almost overwhelming!”