Wendy Annand and Alice Bent are well known throughout the South Shore for their generosity and support of the LGBTQ+ community and have been together for 22 years. Annand and Bent both had the honour of raising this year’s Pride flag in Lunenburg, on July 17, to kick off the many Pride activities happening across the province. Both are retired professionals, Annand, a retired parole officer and Bent, a retired teacher. And while they both say they still would not feel comfortable walking down a main street holding hands, they agree things have changed.
The South Shore Breaker sat down with the couple on their back deck in Lunenburg, overlooking the beautiful lake that borders their property, to discuss some of those changes. “Except for recent years, we worked during a time you were always busy trying to pass so you wouldn’t lose your job,” says Bent. She clearly remembers when she’d had enough and going to the school administrator that she worked at to tell him: “That’s it, I’m out [of the closet].” Fortunately, he was very supportive and glad the students who were struggling with their sexuality would have Bent as a positive role model to look up to.
“Many of us over the years have been on the forefront of fighting for change. Within our work environment or through large provincial organizations that [the] government listened to,” said Annand, who recalls The Women’s Health Education Network (WHEN), the Women’s Action Coalition (WAC) and women’s resource centres across the province all having a large number of gay supporters at the table. “Sometimes, even in those circles, our personal struggles were not recognized, but our bravery certainly kept us there.”
They discussed some of the rewarding changes from a legal standpoint. Marriage, coverage in health plans, human rights issues of not being fired or evicted are tremendous milestones. “Images of same-sex couples in advertisements, from major businesses and television programs are helping to normalize our relationships.”
On a more personal level, both Annand and Bent are saddened at what feels like a loss of history. “So much of who we are and how we lived was done in secrecy, except within our own community, that it’s difficult to relay to younger people the importance of understanding and appreciating our struggles,” says Bent. The culture is rapidly changing. Women’s bookstores, gay music festivals that attract thousands, the Nova Scotia Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues weekend gatherings are all gone. However, they both understand the need for a safe place to gather and celebrate, and for the past 19 years, Annand and Bent have offered their home, land and massive vegetable gardens for an annual weekend lake event which is well known and anticipated within the community. Women come from across the province and some even from across the country. “It is truly a place we can be totally ourselves,” is a comment often heard from those who attend. Many have known each other for over 20, some even 30, years. Along with the laughter and fun, discussions have shifted from coming out or court cases over custody, to downsizing and caring for aging family members.
Pride flags and ceremonies are happening throughout Nova Scotia over the summer months. Annand and Bent make it a point to attend all the local events. They feel it’s important to learn about the past and remain vigilant and equally important to celebrate, to visually support the LGBTQ+ community, to challenge inclusiveness and support the freedom to live life being who you really are.