On August 17, GenNext held its first in-person Mix & Mingle event in over two years. Although we’ve loved hosting virtual events throughout the pandemic, we were thrilled to be back, back, back again at the Ottawa Art Gallery rooftop. We were finally able to come together as a community to celebrate Pride and support GenNext’s causes.
As part of the event, we enjoyed a Q&A with Capital Pride’s Youth Committee Co-Chairs Cameron Jette and Gillian Fenwick, the beautiful sounds of Amanda Lowe Warnakulasuriya’s live musical performance, as well as great snacks from FoodWorks and drinks from our friends at Top Shelf Distillers and Dominion City Brewing Co.
We can’t stop thinking about our top takeaways from the event, so we wanted to share them with you.
Listening, learning, and unlearning
Cameron talked about the value of amplifying voices that make today’s Pride celebrations possible. It’s crucial that we recognize Pride’s history and tell the stories of people who have been pushed aside.
“I think we, as allies and people who want to work towards meaningful allyship, really need to be aware of those voices that they’re uplifting and who they’re positioning themselves aside, […] because the people that have been forgotten are the people that made this possible,” Cameron said.
Cameron is studying Child and Youth Care at Algonquin College, and pursuing a career in youth mental health, and community development. He is also a local disabled drag performer and small business owner, who is passionate about accessibility, community, and building bridges between their many unique identities and communities.
Gillian encourages everyone to read books, watch videos, and consume content by and about 2SLGBTQ+ people, and those with different lived experiences than you.
And if there are times you feel uncomfortable or challenged in your beliefs, sit with that. Think about what makes you feel that way and be open to learning and unlearning biases or misconceptions.
“The biggest thing is to prioritize the safety of marginalized folks, prioritizing the safety of LGBTQ+ folks over your own discomfort,” they said.
Why does Ottawa celebrate Pride in August?
On August 28, 1971, roughly 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and the surrounding areas gathered in the pouring rain at Parliament Hill for Canada’s first gay liberation protest and march, presenting a petition to the government with a list of ten demands for equal rights and protections.
Since then, Ottawa has recognized and commemorated the history of 2SLGBTQ+ people and celebrated the resilience, strength, and pride of our region during the month of August.
Drag as a platform for change
When Cameron became a disabled drag performer, they realized how inaccessible the community could be.
“Becoming a disabled drag performer put me on this stage, and it gave me a bit of a platform to see everything in a different light and take action. I’m hoping that my work as a disabled drag performance will make change and will make certain spaces more accessible to folks,” he said.
Cameron continues to face barriers and go through physical discomfort while trying to enter performance spaces in Ottawa to show their art. This affects his activism in more ways than one.
“It definitely changed how I see myself, how I see my place in the community, but also how I see those around me. Because I really notice when there’s someone who’s going to stand by my side and fight for the accessibility and the things that I’m not able to access, and those who won’t. And those who will [go with] the status quo because it’s easier that way.” – Cameron
Getting involved to support the community
Gillian is a public servant who just graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in public administration and feminist and gender studies. She is passionate about Sapphic literature and intersectional feminism.
The ticket proceeds from our Mix & Mingle went back into the community to support all of GenNext’s causes: mental health, youth homelessness, equitable employment and diversity & inclusion. The 2SLGBTQ+ and disabled communities are disproportionately affected when it comes to all of these local issues. By attending our events—as a volunteer, attendee, sponsor, or speaker—you’re building a safer, healthier, stronger region for everyone.
“If you find a passion, you could translate that passion, that talent, [and] that love into community engagement and [use] that to translate into some sort of community agent leadership opportunities.” – Cameron