Pride flag against backdrop of UHN buildings
The Pride flag flying outside Toronto General Hospital. (Photo: UHN)

Since first being raised in San Francisco in 1978, the Pride flag has been a symbol of diversity and hope.

The brightly-coloured flags representing Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer and 2spirited diversity, are again flying across UHN, though the typical gathering held at each site to raise it was a virtual one this year.

But in the midst of physical distancing due to a global pandemic and ongoing protests across North America over discrimination, what the six colourful stripes in the flag signify – Life, Healing, Sunlight, Nature, Harmony and Spirit – takes on even more meaning.

"The pandemic the world is experiencing right now has highlighted the inequities faced by marginalized communities and we recognize there is still much work to be done," says Kirsten Engelbrecht, a vascular technologist at Toronto General Hospital, and Chair of the UHN LGBTQ2S Steering Committee.

"Despite the fact that we cannot celebrate together physically, we can still celebrate nonetheless."

Pride is not only a celebration, it provides an opportunity to be visible for an otherwise invisible minority. It is a chance to raise political and social awareness of issues the community faces every day.

The plight of vulnerable communities is being highlighted in this pandemic in the disproportionate impact and health disparity of COVID-19 being felt by already marginalized people.

"Raising the flag once a year is not the only work we do at UHN to create and foster safe spaces for our staff and patients alike," Kirsten says. "We continue to move UHN forward by supporting education, increasing awareness and fostering a safe, welcoming environment for everyone who comes through our doors.

"We are proud to celebrate Pride and National Indigenous Heritage Month, working together to promote equity, inclusion and reconciliation across all UHN sites."

The Pride flag is traditionally raised across UHN in early June each year to mark Pride Month. Due to COVID-19, it had to be a virtual ceremony for 2020. (Video: UHN LGBTQ2S Steering Committee)

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