By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—The members of Pride Haldimand-Norfolk have big plans in store for this year’s Pride Day festivities in the county, taking place this year on Saturday, May 28, 2022.
The plans follow a year of highs and lows for the local Pride community, which saw Haldimand County fly their flag for the first time at their administration building in Cayuga, but also a year that brought more than one instance of a Pride sign being stolen or burned on properties throughout Pride Month 2021.
This year’s event is being spearheaded by Caledonia-raised artist Daniel Dowden, better known by his musical alias, Danny Dymond. He shared his story, and why it means so much to get involved locally.
“I suffered bullying, social anxiety, and many other obstacles as a young queer person. I had no resources except the Internet,” he said. “I had many female friends but always struggled to be accepted by men around me growing up. I would get bullied in the change room, pushed around at recess. Called every name you can think of.”
Dowden said it was during his time doing gymnastics at Grand River Gymmies that he was first targeted by his peers.
“I was passionate about the sport,” recalled Dowden. “Unfortunately, a lot of youth believe gymnastics is for girls only and if you were to do it you had to be gay.”
The experience helped Dowden to come out: “I didn’t want to hide who I was anymore.”
Dowden said living as part of the Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community in a small town was not always easy, noting that while the bullying increased, he was determined to live his life the way he wanted to.
Dowden hopes that the presence of Pride H-N will provide comfort to others who find themselves targeted or singled out for their preferences: “I believe everyone lacks resources and support in their lives at some point and I am happy to make sure that we can provide a platform for people to feel safe and celebrated while exposing them to the fact that this is okay and you aren’t alone.”
Over the last 10 years Dowden has been performing music, he says he has occasionally encountered resistance, noting an appearance at a local Pride event in 2018 where a group of religious-based protestors tried unsuccessfully to block him from performing. He said that during a tour of the province that summer, similar groups appeared in every major city he went to.
“That day was a game changer for my mentality and career. Being able to stand up to something that is so hateful and join as one with everyone that attended our festival was a great feeling. I turned around the energy so quick and seeing everyone’s faces light up once I started the show still makes me emotional to this day.”
So, when Dowden heard that Pride H-N needed some help getting this year’s festival together, he jumped at the chance to be involved.
In addition to headlining the festival as Danny Dymond, Dowden is co-directing this year’s show with “choreography extraordinaire” Chelsea Seward. Additional performers include Quanah Style, an Indigenous Two-Spirited artist, and returning favourite Darcy Fever. He added, “We may have some other surprises in store for entertainment.”
Spokesperson Justin Preston from the group Rise Against Bullying will also speak at the event. Dowden called him an “amazing ally.”
The group is in the process of finding the right venue for the event, figuring out who is going to do what, and looking for community volunteers to come lend a hand. Dowden is busy helping with fundraising, securing talent, and figuring out the logistics of how the day will unfold.
“We plan to have local vendors, com-edy, an amazing musical afternoon, drag, and prizes. We will have food and snacks, ice cream, and more! Stay tuned!”
Dowden said that being part of the team “means so much” to him: “Pride H-N as a group are amazing loving individuals that are warm, welcoming, and just have a soul. They are committed to providing a safe, fun event every year and volunteer their efforts out of the kindness of their hearts.”
He said that sourcing funds is always a challenge, “If you’d like to donate please get in touch with us at email@example.com.”
In addition to helping fund Pride Day 2022, the group is also raising funds to install a rainbow bench in Central Park in Dunnville in honour of one of their founding members, the late Ken Hancock.
Dowden invited anyone dealing with “self-identity changes and evolution” to come to this year’s event and “see that you are not alone. A whole world awaits of acceptance and love. Let’s celebrate!”
For more details on Pride Day 2022 as they unfold, follow Pride H-N on social media.