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Joshua

Hub Staff

By the time Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau contacted former resident Joshua Schildroth this past January to discuss a possible Pride event in Saugeen Shores, Schildroth had forgotten about a previous conversation that had gotten the ball rolling.

“It started with a conversation last Labour Day weekend,” said Schildroth in a telephone interview with the Hub, adding that he had gone to school with Charbonneau in Port Elgin. Schildroth said it really bothered him that the Town of Saugeen Shores had not participated in Kincardine’s inaugural Pride event in 2017 or had not done one of their own, something to which Charbonneau had no answer.

A joint motion to Council from Charbonneau and Councillor Cheryl Grace was what eventually led to Saugeen Shores’ first ever Pride event on June 1 of this year.

“I think people don’t realize the impact that having an event like that really has for people, whether you grew up there or you still live there,” he said. Schildroth left Saugeen Shores for Toronto 18 years ago. He now shows Arabian horses at a national level and works in hotel sales and business travel across Canada.

Schildroth headed south to the city in 2000 after finishing five years of high school in a four year time span, gaining a high school diploma as well as the former Grade 13 or OACs (Ontario Academic Credit). “I couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” he said, adding that he was bullied in school and at one point had made a plan to end his own life.

For Schildroth the bullying started in elementary school but he said it intensified in high school. “I think that’s why I’ve done so well with horses,” he said. “It gave me confidence to be good at something at a time I was being put down.”

It’s not necessarily about LGBTQ2+ issues for Schildroth but rather it’s about inclusion. “It was very traumatic [growing up] and I think that that little boy or little girl that’s currently in the community, [a Pride event] says a lot for them, that it is okay, that your community recognizes it and really celebrates it,” he said. “You didn’t talk about it in the ‘90s, it was very shameful,” he added.

Schildroth said while he was visiting Saugeen Shores three years ago, he was walking down the street in Port Elgin and someone yelled a homophobic slur at him. “I just shook my head, going ‘Wow,’” he said.

When asked if that had ever happened to him in Toronto, he responded, “Gosh, no,” and said that’s part of the reason he has never considered moving back to Saugeen Shores. “I love coming home but for that to still happen, to me it was shocking,” he said.

Schildroth said he was “absolutely floored” that Kincardine’s inaugural event had been such a great success. Kincardine celebrated Pride for the first time in June, 2017 by way of a parade that drew thousands of participants and spectators. During a discussion with Charbonneau regarding possible framework for an event in Saugeen Shores, Schildroth said that to him Pride is about a sense of community, a sense of belonging.

“It’s about awareness,” said Schildroth in his interview with us, adding that having a community event certainly speaks volumes.

The topic of bullying is important to Schildroth and he said he had approached the Bluewater school board three years ago about doing a speaking tour at area schools about his experience in school. “I’d like to see discussion happen about this in the future,” he added.

For now Schildroth is proud of what his hometown has accomplished and impressed with Charbonneau’s willingness to make it happen.

For Charbonneau he said he feels confident that the event will grow in the years to come. “Things have been difficult for LGBTQ2+ individuals living in our community over the years,” he said in a recent email to the Hub. “My experience with Pride this year gives me genuine hope that things are changing for the better.”

Schildroth said he was not surprised that Charbonneau had decided to take it on. “Luke was always very kind to me in high school,” he said, adding that he was reminded of one of his favourite quotes, one by Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Schildroth recited.

“The queer community is bigger than one person or one group, and sometimes it's hard to remember that,” Schildroth later added. “It's a world of people who are often rejected and attacked for being who they are, expressing themselves in ways that feel right, and loving who they can't help but love,” he said.

July 3 Update: The original version of this story included a quote from Joshua Schildroth that he would like to see the Pride flag flown at schools. It has been brought to our attention that during Pride month, the rainbow flag was displayed at all schools and board facilities within the Bluewater District School Board. Schools have the choice to display the flag either on a second flag pole, if they have one, or inside the school. The quote has been removed above.

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