There was a time when people wore masks to Pride parades for fear of losing their jobs or risking persecution.Now, when people come out to Pride parades in places like Regina and Saskatoon, they come with joy and without fear, said Sister Aida Baguette, who was among those sporting a full costume and makeup at Regina's Pride parade."Now, people are out in full force. And those of us who are in masks, or makeup or whatever, are doing it to express ourselves, not to hide our identity, but to express ourselves."Many at the Pride parade spoke about how small changes are making them feel like the tide is slowly turning toward more acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Saskatchewan.A majority of Saskatchewan residents feel the same way, according to a recent poll conducted by the University of Saskatchewan's Social Science Research Laboratory and commissioned by CBC.In that poll, 78 per cent of 400 respondents said they either somewhat or strongly agreed that Saskatchewan has become more welcoming to the LGBTQ2+ community in the last five years. Five per cent of the 400 respondents, or 21 people, self-identified as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20Just 13 per cent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement, while 29 people said they didn't know. Four others refused to respond."We've come a far way. There's a lot more people that are open to their sexuality and I couldn't be happier to be one of them, to be honest," said Cade Perrault, another attendee at Pride.Perrault, a transgender man, said people have become more welcoming and change is happening, such as Moose Jaw's recent introduction of gender neutral washrooms in parks. At the same time, Perrault said he can still get called out or receive negativity."But you don't mind, they don't matter."Just how welcoming is Saskatchewan? Jason Disano, director of the U of S's Social Sciences Research Laboratories that conducted the research, said he didn't anticipate what the results would be."To be honest, to some extent, I was a little bit surprised the vast majority of Saskatchewan residents agreed that Saskatchewan has become more welcoming to the LGBT community. I didn't think it would be quite that high." he said.Age and gender differences were reflected in the results. Generally, people in the 18 to 34 years age category were more likely to say Saskatchewan was more welcoming now, while men were more likely to say the same. Women over the age of 55 were more likely to disagree that Saskatchewan was more accepting.Disano pointed out that the question asked about change, but didn't ask about the extent to which Saskatchewan was welcoming to LGBTQ individuals."I'm sure the bar has moved, and I think this data reflects that, to some extent," he said, adding, "I think there's data out there, that if we were to ask another question, or a follow-up question, that we have a very long way to go."Claire Carter is an assistant professor at the University of Regina's Gender, Religion and Critical Studies. As someone whose research looks into issues like gender identity and queer theory, and as a queer person herself, she can see events like Pride parades resonating with people."On the surface level, I would agree, that there is really great acceptance, and we've seen that grow," she said."But I think once you start to break down among the population of LGBTQ, what their experience are, and what it's like to navigate everyday life in Saskatchewan, that's where it changes, I suppose."Some in the community report facing micro-aggressions, whether its verbal attacks, misgendering or getting asked intimate and inappropriate questions. "I think we're much more accepting of lesbian and gay people," said Carter. "I think transgender, queers and queers of colour are the ones that are facing a lot less of the welcoming."She noted the younger generation was more likely to say Saskatchewan is welcoming, and that they may also be more welcoming themselves of LGBTQ people.At Regina's Pride parade, Sister Aida Baguette pointed out a school bus carrying students and teachers, and said it was a sign of new times."I think that's the future of what we're going to see in terms of acceptance, all these kids that come to the Pride parade, and love it, and don't question anything," she said."They're just accepting of everyone, which is wonderful."On Wednesday, CBC Saskatchewan's Blue Sky will look at the history of LGBTQ+ rights in Saskatchewan. The show will be talking to members of the LBGTQ+ community about how safe our society is for members of that community and what work remains to be done. Listen at Noon CST on 102.5 FM in Regina, 94.1 FM in Saskatoon, and 540 AM across the province..
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