Kelowna Pride Week is offering so much more than just events — organizers are offering a safe space where people can express themselves freely amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We’ve made adjustments because of COVID,” said Dustyn Baulkham, Kelowna Pride Society general manager.

“Even the festival site looks essentially different we don’t have a big stage and beer gardens and all of that available but we are really excited to be here at the Rotary Centre for the Arts for our festival.”

The farmers market-style festival on Saturday featured live music and vendors supporting local creators along with services and advocacy groups. These include the Health Initiative for Men, also known as H.I.M., where members of the society handed out take-home tests for HIV, information pamphlets and more.

“Our health outcomes are different, Queer people’s health outcomes are different, we have a different experience,” said Aaron Purdie, H.I.M. executive director.

“In this community alone Gay, Bi and Queer men are telling us in the ‘sex now’ survey put out by Community-Based Research Centre that they have a higher desire for counselling and support for depression, lower knowledge about H.P.V. and other S.T.I.s and just generally a fear of stigma around testing and seeking out medical supports.”

Kelowna-based not-for-profit Advocacy Canada set up shop to help end conversion therapy practices in Canada.

“One of the things that’s surprising is the number of people that are shocked that there are conversion efforts happening in 2021, and so part of what we’re doing is public education to make sure that people are aware that this is happening and it needs to stop,” said Wilbur Turner, Advocacy Canada founder.

For those not comfortable with attending in-person, they could tune in online, and for those who made it out, it was a warm welcome to dress up and feel they could be their authentic selves safely.

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