Inaugural Gay Pride Week in Cumberland County wraps up with panel forum
AMHERST - Corey Hunter has not had it easy. From the time he came out to friends and family in Grade 9, he has been the target of many forms of harassment and persecution because of his sexual orientation.
Hunter shared his story at a panel forum, organized by Cumberland Pride, which explored the idea of advancing the gay/straight alliance in Cumberland County.
The forum was part of Cumberland County's inaugural Gay Pride Week, which also saw the colourful pride flag be raised for the first time in an emotional ceremony at Town Hall.
Other activities included a silent auction at the Farmer's Market, a dance at the Old Warehouse Cafe and family picnic at Northport Provincial Park.
"I questioned myself on how to respond to someone harassing me. The only answer I came up with that I could bring myself to follow was to do nothing," said Hunter.
That was until one day in Grade 10, when Hunter reached the end of his line. The constant tormenting had taken its toll and Hunter decided it was time to make it clear to his classmates and teachers that things would have to change and they did.
"I began to notice that when I stood my ground I got results," said Hunter.
A year later, in 2006, a gay-straight alliance was formed at Amherst Regional High School.
The student-driven committee strives to meet the needs of its members and create a more accepting environment at the school.
Today, Hunter says he sees a difference in relations between the gay and straight communities not only at his school, but also in Amherst and surrounding areas.
"This year, I was able to attend prom with a male date. Many people requested pictures, commented on how handsome we looked and remarked about how proud of us they were," said Hunter. "It was truly a magical night that I will never forget."
Other panelists at the discussion included gay rights activist Greg Daborn, Rev. Dr. Eldon Hay, Cherie MacLeod of PFLAG Canada, Leighann Wichman of Youth Project and J. Wallace, an Ontario-based educator and activist.
"I'd like to think that the progress we've made is a foreshadow of how much further we will come in the near future. A person's sexual orientation has no place in being the cornerstone of two people's relationship," said Hunter.