News / Winnipeg

#Pride30: Non-binary paramedic co-founded Kenora Pride to support LGBTTQ youth

"When you work with youth, you realize a lot of things about yourself," said Wynne DeGagné, who co-founded the LGBTTQ youth group, SPACE.

Wynne DeGagné, 27, lives and works in Kenora, Ont. where they co-founded a local Pride celebration, inspired by trips to Pride Winnipeg.

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Wynne DeGagné, 27, lives and works in Kenora, Ont. where they co-founded a local Pride celebration, inspired by trips to Pride Winnipeg.

Wynne DeGagné has lived on both sides of the binary and realized neither felt right.

The 27-year-old identifies as non-binary and uses the singular pronouns they and their.

Explaining they aren’t male or female posits a new challenge for the paramedic and youth group leader, who previously came out as transgender.

"I feel like transgender is that umbrella term that I’ve always tried to kind of use so people understand, but I don’t know. I think it’s just way more complicated than labels," DeGagné said.

"Every time you meet somebody new, it’s a different kind of coming out as a non-binary person versus somebody who’s queer or gay or lesbian," they said.

"I think (coming out) is like a worry and it’s also a moment of feeling empowered at the same time, depending on the situation."

Working with LGBTTQ youth in Kenora has helped DeGagné feel empowered.

They started the group SPACE two years ago, offering teens in northwest Ontario a bevy of workshops and opportunities to socialize and swap stories.

SPACE was recently granted $210,000 from the Youth Opportunities Fund at the Ontario Trillium Foundation to keep up its good work.

DeGagné co-founded Kenora Pride in 2015 after the youth group said they were craving a hometown celebration like Pride Winnipeg, which they carpool to regularly.

"When you work with youth, you realize a lot of things about yourself. You realize where you were in that position and where you are now and how you’ve grown as a person," DeGagné said.

"I feel like my perception of gender is changing and I feel more confident, I think, in the body that I have."

••• 

What’s your favourite Pride moment?

"At the very first Pride Kenora, we had a barbecue at Anicinabe Park and I remember feeling super stressed out obviously, because you really want a good turnout ...

There was this moment where I was really, really stressed out during the barbecue and I looked out onto this little hill where the grass was so green. There was this tiny child, like three years old, and they were just like booking it down the hill. They had this giant Pride flag tied around their neck like a cape, and they had their arms out … It was just the most pure moment I’ve ever seen. I loved it."

Why was Pride important 30 years ago?

"Obviously I’m not 30 years old and it’s hard to really understand what it would have been like 30 years ago. I think Pride was important 30 years ago because, like with any movement, you need numbers and masses. I think that’s exactly what Pride did. It showed that we’re here …

I also think that it was important 30 years ago to pave the way for right now and just like, props to them—all the pioneers and all the people that really put their neck out to stand up and really fight for our rights."

Why is Pride important today?

"Not everybody benefits equally from Pride. Not everybody that’s part of the LGBTTQ community all have the same rights, which is really unfortunate. And I think that’s why Pride is important today, because we’re still fighting for those equal rights.

I think on an individual level, it’s also still important that people get to exist as they are. I think it shows the strength of the human heart and the strength of togetherness—like how much you can really accomplish when you very much love openly, think about other people and be inclusive."

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