Halifax Pride has come a long way since it began in the 1980s. What started as a defiant march through the city with chanting and some marchers wearing bags over their heads to protect their identity has become a mainstream cultural celebration.

 

“It’s only been the last eight or nine years that it’s turned into more than a protest,” said Pride vice-chairman Ed Savage, as this year's event begins Saturday. “The areas where we’re headed now in our communities are a little bit different than they were. We have certain rights; we don’t have them all, and there are still a lot of bridges to gap.”

 

Pride chairwoman Liz McQaid said paraders are conscious that gay people around the world are still oppressed.

 

“The reason we are having the Pride Parade is because there are so many people around the world who can’t have a Pride Parade. We’re marching in solidarity with them,” she said. “We have to fight for them just as we’ve had to fight for ourselves. Until everyone is equal, none of us are free.”

Moscow officials banned the Russian city’s Pride Parade after anti-gay violence, and homosexuality remains illegal in much of the world. The Iranian government regularly executes gay men and women. The U.S. largely does not recognize same-sex marriages, so Americans like McQaid can’t move home with their Canadian partners.

Two key issues in Canada are that Canadian Blood Services continues to bar men who have had sex with men from giving blood or organ donations, McQaid noted, and that sexual-reassignment surgery used to be covered by the province, but isn’t any more.

“It’s great to say we have the rights. It’s a whole different thing to actually see them transpire into reality for a lot of people,” Savage said.