Ahead of Albany Pride Festival in March, the Advertiser caught up with organiser Tiger Bird to talk about the festival’s not to be missed highlights and some of the challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community in Albany. Q: Can you give a little bit of background on Albany Pride for our readers? A: Albany Pride has been going since 2011 and we have been having a pride festival just about every year since 2016. We are the only recognised service for LGBTQIA+ people in the Great Southern region, so, as well as the festival, we have outreach groups and support services available and we work with local community organisations to get good outcomes for the community. The festival started as just a weekend during the same time as the Perth Pride festival. However, its growth has seen it become its own brand and we have moved away from Perth Pride, and we get people from all over the State come down. Q: Is there an event that you are most excited about? A: I think our first weekend is probably the biggest because that is when we have our dance party and drag bingo, things like that, and I always love the fair day. We get all these families, there are children carrying the pride flags around - they are so happy, and that always makes me happy. And we’ve got an 80s dance party this year, which is just great because the queer community sort of still has this really big affinity with the 80s. We’ve got a lot of talent coming down, we’ve got Abbe May at the Town Hall, which is amazing, I’m looking forward to that too. We also have a sports carnival, which is amazing, because it is important that our community get involved in sports when they can be a bit hostile towards LGBTQIA+ people. Q: What does an event like Albany Pride Festival mean for the LGBTQIA+ community? A: It is quite big because many of the people in the community here, even 10 years ago, would not have imagined such a thing was possible. I went to school here, and I never thought I would see this kind of festival in Albany and now it is happening I think it is great. It is great for young people to see their community thriving and it is really good to bring people from all over the region to connect and make friends and meet people. Q: What are some of the challenges that face the LGBTQIA+ community in Albany? A: There is still a lot of resistance, I think particularly in Albany there is a section of the community that really want to push back against the queer community. So we do face that, I mean our banners kept being stolen from their place on North Road, which is a bit unbelievable in this day and age. We keep persevering because we’re going to exist, no matter how many banners get taken down. Q: How can you support someone who is going through their own LGBTQIA+ journey? A: If it’s a friend or family member, it is important to be there and offer support when and if they need it. I think it’s also important they see other people living their lives and making a success of it because there are a lot of feelings of being lost or hopeless in that stage. So when there is a community, and when you have friends that are supporting you, it really takes that away and you feel like, “you know what, I can do this and it is going to be ok.” I think the youth are a lot better at supporting each other. It is sort of second nature for them to be supportive and not see it as this huge thing. We found with the mature members of our community particularly, there is still that sense they should not be so open about it, and keep it a little more hidden and that can be difficult to overcome. More information about Albany Pride and the events and support they offer for the LGBTQIA+ community can be found on the Albany Pride website and Facebook page.