June is Pride month in Thunder Bay (and all over North America) and the city is making great strides in celebrating diversity and becoming a more accepting and safe space for those in the LGBTIQ2S+ community. The pride parade/block party is coming up on June 16th and each year the celebrations get better and better. It fills my heart with joy, knowing that my kids are being raised in a time of celebration and acceptance.
I was asked to write some profiles about the members of the Thunder Pride Association Board members. Here are 10/11 of the board members. I had a great time getting to know these people a bit better!
He / Him
This is Jason’s first year as the chair of the Thunder Pride Association Board of Directors. He was born and raised in Thunder Bay and is complete devoted to his adorable nieces and nephews. Jason left Thunder Bay for several years, living and working in Calgary. Returning to Thunder Bay has allowed Jason the opportunity to be a doting and braggart of an uncle. Jason is a proud supporter of Patty Hajdu and volunteered for her campaign in 2014; he looks forward to volunteering again this year. In addition to politics, his family, and the chair of the Anti-Racism and Respect Advisory Committee to City Council, Jason enjoys curling and live music of all genres. He has seen Lady Gaga in concert a whopping sixteen times!
Jason is part of The Thunder Pride Association because he believes in advocacy for all people, especially those in a more disenfranchised position. His greatest wish is to give back to the community that has given him a sense of home and a sense of belonging.
She / They
This is Ashley’s first year as the Thunder Pride Association vice-chair. She was born in Eagle River and spent several years as a student at Con College studying civil engineering technology. Ashley loves spending time outdoors enjoying a good bonfire, and she is incredibly gifted in music and art, spending a lot of time creating both visual and aural delights. Ashley lives with her wife, a teenage child, two dogs, and a ferret.
Ashley has always volunteered with Pride and Pride related events, and she’s always been available to perform with her band (Outside the Lines) at many different venues and events. This year, Ashley is getting more involved by volunteering on the board because it’s important to set an example for their teenage daughter. Ashley is excited to help lead this year. She’s watched as the Pride events have grown over the years and she’s excited to see how everything continues to grow, especially when envisioning the future for their child.
He / Him
Ken was born in Thunder Bay and has a long history of volunteer work, activism, and working in fields where helping the public is the main focus. He has been a social worker at the shelter house, a counsellor at a mental health drop-in centre, and has been on various Pride boards at national, regional, and local levels. Ken works part time at the Dew Drop Inn and full time for Elevate. When he’s not working, he loves to get outside and hike with his two dogs.
Joining the Thunder Pride Association Board was a catalyst in Ken’s life as it was then that he first felt comfortable coming out. He has always wanted to live a life where he was helping people but the LGBTIQ2S+ community in Thunder Bay has been just as helpful. Through the comfort and support of people with similar stories, Ken felt truly empowered to begin living his most authentic life.
She / Her
Donna was born in Thunder Bay, spent many years living in Alberta, and has completed the circle by returning to Thunder Bay. She spent a portion of her youth as a pro basketball player, playing for the Texas Cowgirls in the early 1970’s; finishing her athletic career playing on the Lakehead University team. In Edmonton, Donna worked various jobs for over two decades and then came back to Thunder Bay, became a real estate agent, and married her wife. In that order! She is the treasurer for the Thunder Pride Association Board, a mom to three cats, a driving instructor, an income tax preparer, and so many other things.
Donna wanted to find a close knit and supportive community upon her return to Thunder Bay and she was delighted to find Thunder Pride Association. She was welcomed in with open arms and adopted and loved. Donna says that once this group gets you, you are theirs for life.
He / Him
Bill was born in Guelph and moved to Thunder Bay for work in 1980. He spent many years as a stay-at-home dad with his two daughters before moving to Calgary for work opportunities. While living and learning about himself in a bigger city, Bill felt comfortable coming out. He enjoyed his time in Calgary but eventually began craving a more solid connection; he wanted to be near his family and hoped to find a strong and supportive community nearby. The Thunder Pride community was here in Thunder Bay just waiting to welcome Bill.
Thunder Bay’s LGBTIQ2S+ community is growing and expanding and Bill has been around for much of that growth; he is so thankful to have this loving “chosen” family in addition to his supportive biological family. Bill helped organize the first pride parade in 2011 and has helped it get bigger and better every year. This year is sure to be a major success with Bill at the helm again.
He / Him
Jimmy was born and raised in Thunder Bay and has been causing trouble as a little punk musician since the early 2000s. He attended Con College for Business Marketing and then briefly left us to attend Advertising Communications in Hamilton. But he came back and has continually worked hard to be a leader in the Thunder Bay entertainment industry. His business Wiggins Productions owns and operates TBShows and Werq. Jimmy is also the co-founder of the Fantasy Haus Drag Family and works at Creation Body Piercing.
Jimmy has been been producing and promoting drag shows for about fifteen years now and Thunder Pride Association and the LGBTIQ2S+ community has always been so supportive. Joining Thunder Pride Association to help run these major events is his way of giving back to the community that helped build his career.
They / Them
Jesse was born in Thunder Bay and has been working their entire teen and adult life organizing events for the LGBTIQ2S+ community: spaces to have fun, feel accepted, feel safe, and celebrate human diversity. Jessy organized Gender Journeys (a support and education group for trans people and anyone questioning), Queers on Ice (a hockey team), and multiple fundraising drag shows, to name just a few.
In their spare time, Jesse loves rock climbing, hockey (surprise!), sailing, traveling and spending time with their pets. Jessy wanted to join Thunder Pride Association to create a voice for the Trans and Non Binary community. The Thunder Bay LGBTIQ2S+ community is diverse and growing and it’s important that all people feel represented.
Colleen was born in Barrie and came to Thunder Bay to attend Lakehead University. She studied Social work, psychology, and gerontology, and has a masters degree in social work. Colleen has an incredibly busy life full of committees and volunteering. She has two nasty cats and an incredibly supportive husband.
Colleen wanted to work with Thunder Pride Association because she has a lot of experience volunteering and has a real talent for building capacity and reaching people. It’s also important for Colleen to be a face of diversity in our rapidly diversifying community. Colleen is proud to represent visible minorities and hopes her presence and her unique voice will encourage people of colour who identify as LGBTIQ2S+ to feel comfortable and supported.
She / Her
Sabrina is one of the newest recruits to Thunder Pride Association. She was born and raised in Thunder Bay and has worked in the community for many years, helping people in many different ways. Sabrina loves being outdoors, whether it’s hiking or camping or fishing, and creating beautiful home aquariums full of fish has always been a passion.
Sabrina was looking for a way to give back to the community and heard that Thunder Pride Association was looking for a volunteer director. Sabrina welcomes the opportunity to learn on the job and give back to such a supportive community.
He / Him
Thunder Bay born and raised, John began making a name for himself in the local entertainment scene after graduating high school. He’s worked in retail for almost twenty years, known for being a friendly face at Value Village since 2011. But when he’s not helping customers, he’s wowing audiences as Lady Fantasia LaPremier on stage. John is the cofounder of Fantasy Haus Drag Family and is incredibly gifted both on the stage as a performer and off the stage as an organizer and supporter.
John has been volunteering with Thunder Pride in various roles for many years. Showing up to support events is important and this year John wanted to take the next step and give back to the community that helped him feel welcomed and safe. Showing up is the first step, DOING is the second step. John is now an official board member and looks forward to helping others to feel comfortable, safe, and loved.
I know that we still have a long way to go in the fight for equality. I know the LGBTIQ2S+ community continues to face persecution in North America and all over the world. It is illegal to be gay in many countries; gay people, trans men and women, and gender non-conforming people are still being beaten and murdered because of who they are. You only need a quick scroll through your newsfeed to be faced with countless stories about injustices and horrors. The fight is far from over. Go and show your support at the parade this coming weekend! June 16th at noon, the parade departs from Waverly Park! Wave your rainbow, friends!