A few blocks south of the center, a family from Lethbridge is having a very busy start to the summer. In May, Kim and Mary Siever spent more than 25 hours painting their home the colors of the rainbow. In June, during Alberta’s Pride Month, the Sievers received hundreds of visitors who greeted them with solidarity and sweets.
Pride celebrations in major cities across Canada show large parades and larger crowds. Pride celebrations in Alberta have always felt a little understated, and even more so in smaller communities. Lethbridge’s rainbow-colored Pride zebra crossings are destroyed every year with burnt-out tire tracks or cattle manure. Elsewhere in Alberta, similar vandalism has occurred, including the Taber’s Pride flag being set on fire twice in one year. The Siever family argues that acts that celebrate acceptance and cheer up queer people in their communities should be bolder than the vandalism.
So we painted our house. pic.twitter.com/vxXB95qIXW
— Kim Siever (@kim_siever) May 21, 2022
Kim, a freelance journalist and stay-at-home parent, and his wife Mary, a researcher and scholar, live in the Rainbow House with four of their six children. The Sievers live in one of the older neighborhoods in Lethbridge and have been raising their family in this 110-year-old house for over 16 years. In recent decades, their neighborhood has become a patchwork of houses of various sizes, from tall-towered houses built by judges and mayors to so-called strawberry box houses built after World War II. Even among this eclectic mix of residences, with its bright Pride flag colors painted from top to bottom, the Rainbow House stands out.
Kim & Mary spoke to maclean’s about their freshly painted house and the reactions they experienced when they showed their pride:
How did the idea of painting your house like a rainbow come about?
Mary: We had to paint this house for a long time; the house needed to be painted before we bought it. And that was a long time ago!
Kim: There was a house nearby that proudly colored the family’s steps every year. I walked there with my dog so we saw him every day. They had quite a few steps so all the colors of the rainbow fit. We thought it would be fun to do that, but we only have three steps. We decided to paint the whole house with a rainbow.
If the outside of your home goes viral on social media, this will be an unforgettable Pride month. What was your relationship with Pride Month over the past few years?
Kim: Rather, it was a support and alliance role, just to try and support people in the queer community.
Kim, you came out as queer during the pandemic, yourself, in your community and on social media. Is the Rainbow House part of that party?
Kim: Yes, it was in the same month that the province implemented pandemic restrictions very early. The restrictions have not made it possible to hold public Pride events. This will be my first. I don’t think the house had to do with my coming out per se. It’s been a few years. We were only thinking of the wider community. We want to be able to offer a place of vibrancy and color and hope.
How has the response to your Rainbow House been?
Kim: We’ve distributed over 350 bags of Skittles and the vast majority of those people are with someone else, so we estimate that seven or eight hundred people came to visit.
Mary: Large groups, smaller groups or just a few people at a time.
Kim: Saturday we had a wedding party on the bike and two dozen wedding guests came over to take pictures in front of the house
Oh hello there Lethbridge Rainbow House!
Thank you Kim and Mary for spreading so much queer joy pic.twitter.com/QWRpPxfEW5
— Janis Irwin (@JanisIrwin) June 20, 2022
You painted your house in May and started handing out Skittles in June.
Kim: The Skittles part was special for Pride month. We had talked about it in May, around the time we started painting. You know, see the rainbow, “taste the rainbow”.
When the Rainbow House that Skittles handed out went viral, you also got candy delivered to your door.
Mary: We met so many people. We didn’t ask for Skittles, but we didn’t know this answer was coming! Our original plan to hand out Skittles would have been way beyond our budgetary capabilities.
People have been so generous and gave anywhere from $5 to $100 to buy Skittles. This morning some workers and the Vice President of Black Velvet Distillery delivered eight boxes of Skittles!
How does this work? Does your doorbell ring constantly?
Kim: Usually they don’t call because normally we notice someone is there. Whether it’s our dog barking or when Mary is working in her office with the window open and she hears them.
Do you join as soon as you see someone outside?
Kim: We usually wait and see if they take a picture, because then we take the Skittles out.
Mary: We don’t want to photobomb their photos! We’ll wait for them to finish and then we’ll come out and say “Hello”.
— Linda Hoang Cam Tu (she/her) (@lindork) June 22, 2022
Wondering if your home’s location went viral?
Mary: We haven’t talked much about it. I mean, it was a bit of a worry. I usually don’t like to post my address or anything. Our teens were nervous about it at first, but when their friends showed them how much support it got online, they said, “Oh! It’s good now!”
What advice do you have for people living in small communities in Canada before painting their own Rainbow House?
Mary: Don’t be afraid of what other people say, because it’s your space! Here’s what I’ve said to people wondering what we’ve done, we’ve done this for us! Don’t be afraid to stand out and you will find the people who support you. Small families with children are most endearing. It’s pretty neat that there are kids who think this is a magical house. They don’t think, “Oh, what are you doing this for?”, they think this looks like a magical place and a good place to be.
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