Harcourt’s streets were filled with Pride colours as more than 60 people gathered to spread a message of love and combat bigotry July 22.
People took part in an ad hoc march through the neighbourhood, waving Pride flags. The event was done in support of gay youth Evan Natale, after he said people at a nearby residence shouted at him about his sexuality – including slurs – during a walk around the neighbourhood.
“I was extremely upset and frustrated,” Natale said. “I just learned to ignore them, but it’s still difficult. I’m hoping this walk will help not just me, but anyone in my position.”
His mother, Debbie Natale, made a Facebook post about the incident. It quickly spread and soon, the idea came together to walk with Evan Natale through the community. She said the walk was an important show of support.
“There’s a lot of young adults out there, and even older adults, that don’t feel they have support,” Natale said. “They need to know they’re not alone and if they need support, we will be there and we will walk with them any time they need it.”
Wayne Beker pushed the event on social media, coming up with the graphic used for it. He said he felt heartbroken when he saw the post.
“Everyone feels alone in something,” Beker said. “We need to get together as a community and support each other and that’s what this kind of turned into.”
The walk attracted people from far and wide. Wayne Holmes came from Belleville to show his support and reflected on his own experience as an LGBTQ man.
“I came out at 21 (years old) in Toronto. Back then, it was a hostile time – people throwing eggs, tomatoes at you, chasing you around. I’ve been beaten many times,” Holmes said. “But all the activism work – I thought it wouldn’t be an issue now, and it still is.”
“We need to show people in rural areas that they’re not alone,” he added.
The walk went through a significant part of the hamlet, including two pointed passes by the residence that heckled Natale. Decorated Canadian curler John Epping also attended and told Evan Natale to reach out to him if he ever needed support.
He said as an openly gay athlete and LGBTQ advocate, he wanted to be there. He added LGBTQ people in Toronto are a little more privileged compared to certain rural areas, where some may not be as educated on the subject.
“I hope this is something they can continually do, and I hope that other maybe small communities, small towns, pick up on something,” Epping said. “It’s about just spreading equality, kindness and being nice to each other.”
“The love and support are absolutely amazing,” Debbie Natale said. “We delivered a good, peaceful message and it’s a good first start.”