30 May Happy PRIDE St. Catharines!
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of speaking at the City of St. Catharines Pride Flag Raising. As the City’s first openly gay councillor – it was a very special and humbling experience.
At the flag raising the City presented a $5000 cheque to PRIDE Niagara to support all the PRIDE events – the FIRST for any city in the Niagara Region. Thank you to Mayor Siscoe, our Senior Leadership Team and our Economic Development Team for demonstrating the City of St. Catharines commitment to being a City that welcomes and supports the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
This is what I said.
“I would like to thank Enzo, Darryl and the entire PRIDE Niagara family for being fabulously you. You have brought PRIDE and joy to Niagara.
Thank you for inviting me to speak – it is an honour to be here today.
I have been thinking a lot about what to say as we gather to raise the PRIDE flag at city hall.
I’ve always said that who I love is probably the least interesting thing about me – unless of course you’ve met Janice – especially if you’ve seen her jazz hands.
Yet who I love is something that when I meet new people – I hesitate to share. I don’t know about you but – even after being with Janice for over 27 years – I wait to read the room or person before saying my partner Janice.
When I decided to run for city council – in 2018 – I was told by some friends to prepare for the worst – keep my private life private. I planned for pretty much every worst case scenario I could come up with.
I actually took a page from my Mom, who for the first 5 or so years told everyone she met that Janice was my business partner. Not a lie but not the whole story.
I never hid who I was – but I also didn’t share. I lost by 106 votes – and yes, I am over it now.
In 2022, I couldn’t do the same thing. It just didn’t feel right. So there it was in the first paragraph – Robin lives downtown with her partner Janice and their 3 dogs – Lindy, Trixie and Reba.
I still prepared for the worst.
Did people not vote for me because I’m gay? I have no idea. I do know enough voted for me – heck I came in first – so that I guess is something.
On election night – Mayor Sendzik came up to me and said you’ve made history. You’re the first open 2SLGBTQ+ person to be elected to council.
I was also the first open 2SLGBTQ+ person appointed to council but that frankly is a lot less sexy.
The importance of this was something I had never even thought about.
On inauguration night – a friend came up to me and said – “you don’t know how much tonight means to me. I never thought I’d see someone like me on council.”
I’ve had people tell me that my running and winning gave their kids hope and a desire to learn more about politics because they see someone like them around the horseshoe.
I don’t take this lightly. It is an honour and a privilege to have this role – and to be a member of the incredible 2SLGBTQ+ community in Niagara.
In today’s world where hatred and violence are on the rise against the 2SLGBTQ+ community – it is not enough to raise a flag or change your profile pic to include a rainbow or saying Love is Love.
Being an ally requires work – the 2SLGBTQ+ need you to stand up and call out hate, violence and discrimination.
I leave you with this – my hope is that I am not the last open 2SLGBTQ+ member of council. My hope is that we will see more of our community running and winning. That after the next election all the councils around Niagara reflect all the diverse and vibrant communities we have in Niagara.
But carrying hope can be hard. It’s tiring and exhausting. Some have been carrying this hope for decades.
I am asking each and everyone of us here today that we carry the hope for each other and when one is not able to – we tell them we’ve got it. We’ve got your hope and we will carry it proudly.
Thank you and a very Happy Pride.”