Across the globe, millions are taking the time to recognize and celebrate Pride month, an annual observance held in June to pay homage to those who identify with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
One local family involved with Sault Pride is not only looking forward to celebrating, but also providing education from their own lived experience.
Linsay Ambeault, a mother of two, has sat on the Sault Pride Committee since 2016. She has long advocated for the pride community and has even acted as a surrogate for a gay couple.
While she doesn’t identify with the community herself, Ambeault’s youngest child Kelsey Moran does.
Currently a grade nine student at Superior Heights, Moran is non-binary. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Moran’s explanation is pretty straightforward.
“I don’t have a gender,” they stated.
While the concept of not identifying as male or female is simple at its core, it’s a difficult one for some to comprehend, which can be concerning for any parent.
“When we found out, the first thought I had was their life is going to be a little harder,” Ambeault says. “Not because of me, but because of the rest of the world. It’s my job to make that better if I can.”
Despite some resistance to the idea on a global scale, Kelsey is not only comfortable with being non-binary, but wears it with confidence – quite literally.
Occasionally, they wear the non-binary flag as a cape to school, and one of their friends who is pansexual wears her cape as well.
Kelsey is in the Pride Club at Superior Heights, where 2SLGBTQIA+ students can gather with one another to play games and participate in social activities.
Kelsey says they are just one of several students in grade nine who identifies as non-binary. They describe that support system as being pivotal in helping them be proud of who they are.
“I have a lot of friends that are also open about it,” they said. “Visibility is so important.”
For the past six months, Kelsey has used they/them pronouns. Like non-binary, the use of they/them pronouns in this context has become more commonplace in recent years.
“It’s really just how you prefer to be referred as,” Kelsey says. “Instead of she/her or he/him, it’s they/them.”
Referring to someone as ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ isn’t as weird as it may sound according to Kelsey’s older sister Shaye, who also attends Superior Heights.
“Everyone’s referred to as they/them at some point,” she says. “It’s used all the time.”
While that may be the case, it can be challenging for some to fully adjust to the reference, including Kelsey’s mother.
“It’s new things to learn, which at my age is difficult,” Ambeault says. “For 14 years I’ve said ‘she/her,’ or my ‘two daughters,’ or my ‘youngest daughter.’ It’s an adjustment for sure.”
Kelsey says the misidentification happens on occasion and they encourage others to follow the rule of thumb when it occurs.
“As you’re getting to know somebody and you still don’t know how they identify, maybe stick to they/them since they’re pretty neutral pronouns,” they said. “If someone mistakes your pronouns, just politely correct it.”
Ambeault says it’s difficult to explain the use of pronouns to those who aren’t familiar with them – even to some older relatives in their own family.
“People don’t understand they/them,” she says. “If Kelsey was transgender and identified as male, I’d say I have a girl and a boy – easy. But to try and explain I have one girl and one non-binary child, and then you have to try and educate them as to what that is – that’s a challenge.”
According to those that know Kelsey, ‘non-binary’ just helps describe them, but doesn’t define them.
“I know the first thing I see when I think of them is their love of anime, and they love to support their friends,” Shaye says. “That’s what I think of before seeing them as non-binary.”
From a general perspective, the family explains there has been an evident shift in how the education system has incorporated the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in their teachings.
“We weren’t taught it was wrong, but we also weren’t taught it exists,” Ambeault says. “That would have been helpful for a lot of my classmates who came out ten years later.”
Flash forward 20 years, and it’s a different story inside the classroom.
“We learn about Stonewall when learning about the counterculture in the sixties,” Shaye says. “We also learned about two-spirit in our social studies class. They were seen as having the perspectives of both male and female, and they were looked up to as great advisors and people of great wisdom.”
On top of the educational shift, Ambeault is blown away by the growth of Pride in Sault Ste. Marie.
“It’s funny seeing the contrast between their generation and my own,” she says. “I can’t believe all of that happened in 20 years. Gay marriage was illegal, surrogacy was something only the celebrities did, and the Sault having a rainbow crosswalk would have been unheard of. It’s like living through a piece of history.”
Ambeault recognizes there are people that don’t believe Pride month is necessary, but she remains firm that there’s still more work to be done.
“As much as being gay is accepted now, being transgender is a whole other ball game,” she says. “Kelsey has a friend who’s trans and he has to do online schooling because he had a difficult time at a couple different high schools.”
World Pride Month is honoured in June to help recognize people like Kelsey’s transgender friend who still struggle to fit in.
Sault Pride, meanwhile, primarily celebrates in July.
Among their events next month includes the flag raising at city hall, the annual ‘Loud and Proud’ event at the Bushplane, an AIDS vigil, as well as gay trivia night.
Pridefest lawn signs are also available at Amore: For Your Pleasure at 331 Korah Rd.
Kelsey encourages everyone to make it out to the Pride events next month to honour the community’s history and celebrate its cultivation.
“In the past it wasn’t accepted as much,” they said. “It’s good to come out and remind people of what happened and why we recognize it.”