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  • Writer's pictureJess Hope

Why Pride Month matters to me.

People who are part of the community are very near and dear to my heart. I grew up in a small, conservative village in southeastern New Brunswick called Salisbury. I attended the same school my whole life and graduated with many of the same students from kindergarten. I never fit in with the ‘stereotypical’ kids. I was always ridiculed for being different, looking different and being a mild-mannered , odd child who enjoyed reading. As I grew older, I realized that I was not alone in feeling like an outsider. I found out more about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and embraced my own identity. I have since become an advocate for the community and strive to create a more inclusive and understanding environment for everyone.

I grew up in the church. I was raised attending church every Sunday at a small community church called Second North River Baptist. My parents were heavily involved in the church and ran local youth groups and led Sunday school. My parents have never taught me to hate others based on who they love. I was never taught homophobic ideologies or anything remotely like that by my parents. I was taught that Jesus loved everyone and we should follow him that way. I was taught to be respectful of everyone, even if we disagreed on beliefs and lifestyles. I was taught that we should always strive to be open-minded and kind. Most importantly, I was taught that love should always be our guiding principle. When you use religion to support your hate, I will judge you deeply.

There’s no excuse.

Fast forward to my high school years and I found a group of friends who accepted me. Many of my friends were part of the LGBTQ+ community and I never treated them differently. They were some of the best friends any human could ask for and I’m still blessed to have some of them in my life over 15 years later. Over the years I witnessed the backlash they faced just because of who they were. I never understood how people could harbor such deep hatred in their souls. I vowed to do what I could to spread love and acceptance to anyone who faced discrimination. I wanted to be a safe space and a friend to those who were struggling to find acceptance. I wanted them to know that there are people who are willing to stand up and fight for them.

I was married to a woman.

It’s not my place to tell her story or give detailed details of our marriage. My ex-spouse is a transgender woman. She came out during our marriage. Our marriage failed but it was not because she was her. It was already crashing and burning before she came out. We married too young, and before we knew who we truly were. I spent many years pondering this and have come to terms with it. Regardless of who she is, she’s still the other parent of my child, and she had a part in creating him. I still deal with the backlash of being married to a woman. As a result, I am often met with surprise and confusion when I explain my past marriage. This has caused me to feel misunderstood and judged by those who don't understand the complexities of my situation. I've learned to respect her regardless of our marriage failing. She is a part of my past, and a part of my son's life. Past friends and family have blamed me. I’ve been told it’s my fault and I turned her “gay”. I know this isn't true, and I've moved forward. I've learned to accept her for who she is, and I'm doing my part to co-parent our son in a healthy way.

As my son gets older, they are developing a relationship, and it makes my heart happy to see. My child is growing up knowing about people part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. In return, he’s becoming a loving, tolerant, and accepting individual and he’s only nine. I'm proud of the way he is growing and I hope he will always continue to show respect towards everyone despite their background or identity. I'm grateful to be able to raise him in an environment that values inclusion and understanding of all people. By instilling these values in him from a young age, I'm confident he will grow into a compassionate, understanding adult, who will strive to make the world a better place for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

I can only hope this story brings you a better understanding of my passion for defending this community. I believe that raising him with a strong foundation of acceptance and understanding will help him to be an ally and advocate for the community throughout his life. I want him to understand that all people should be respected, regardless of their race, gender, orientation, or identity.

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