As a queer person growing up in regional South Australia, Shay Leach never thought they’d see a public showing of support for people like them.
- South Australia’s Riverland region holds its first pride march
- Local sexuality and gender diverse people say they did not expect a public showing of pride in the region
- Organisers are happily surprised by the large turnout for the march
It’s why they felt the need to head back to their home town to speak to young people in the region about embracing themselves at the Riverland’s first pride march
“I’m so proud that the Riverland is joining in and being a leader in their community,” Shay said.
“I was convinced that I would need to move away in order to find my peers and celebrate and participate in events like this … it’s kind of full circle.”
Held in Berri on Friday and organised by the town’s Headspace chapter, the march attracted almost 200 people from across the region as they walked across the Berri riverfront.
The march coincided with international Wear it Purple Day — a celebration of young people who are sexuality and gender diverse and aimed at driving down suicide and self-harm rates in the community.
Inspring youth to be themselves
While Wear it Purple Day is aimed at promoting inclusiveness for young people who are sexuality and gender diverse, the Riverland pride march looked to include people of all ages.
Attendee Gypsy Searle said she hoped seeing the large crowd united in a highly visible place would send a strong message to the community.
“I hope the young closeted kids who see us know that it’s OK to be them and that the people who frown upon people like us see that it’s not something to frown upon and see that it’s OK,” she said.
“I’m really exited to be here. I’ve always wanted to go to a pride parade. I thought there was none in the Riverland and I wanted to organise one, but I don’t have to do that now.”
Fellow attendee Jess McDonald said they felt encouraged by people in the Riverland putting in effort to celebrate LGBTQIA+ people.
“For a lot of people that have closeted families, and they can’t come out, being able to express themselves in a public area makes people in general feel better as themselves,” they said.
Connection to community vital
Event organiser Alysha Herrmann said the idea to hold a pride march in the region came from local young people working with Headspace Berri who wanted to show public support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
She said organisers initially planned for around 40 people to attend, but interest grew quickly online and within the community.
“Life can be really complicated and we are always changing and becoming new versions of ourselves.
Earlier in the day, Shay also took their personal experiences in to local high schools to provide a safe space for students to ask the questions they felt they couldn’t during their youth.
Shay said it could be transformative for someone to meet another young person with a similar story.
“[It’s important] as well to have someone who understands the impact of not growing up as yourself — the isolation, the internalised homophobia and transphobia.
“But also [understands] the really good things too, like the way you find it out and find queer joy and happiness.”
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