October 11 is National Coming Out day. For those of us who do not live in disguise, or fear of our gender this is just another day. However, for those in the LBGTQI2S (Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Gay, Trans, Queer, Intersex, 2 Spirited) community, this is a day of strength, celebration and inclusivity.
For the 60 people gathered at Days Inn in Stephenville, Oct 11 was an emotionally packed day of training, learning and camaraderie.
Front line service providers from the southwest coast were invited to attend SWCEV’s Inclusive Communities Regional Conference Oct 10-11, 2018. Folks from various government departments, the health sector, community agencies, Parks Canada, educational field and counsellors availed of this free opportunity to learn how to create safe and welcoming programs and services.
While the conference content may have been convoluted and heavy at times, Martin Krajcik and Kevin Welbes Godin, facilitators with Egale Canada, kept the days flowing and light with their recognized experience and ability to read their audience.
During his self-introduction, Martin set the pace for the conference by telling the group, “I’m passionate about human rights…I’m not here to change your beliefs, we want to change our behaviours.”
With candid conversation, definition explanations, interactive group activities, and teaching videos participants were challenged by Kevin to leave the conference with at least one promise/commitment to help change and educate on LBGTQ issues. There was an abundant discussion on the importance of pronouns and the difference between sex and gender, (“gender identification originates in the brain not the genitals”). Healthy conversation flowed when discussing how important self-expression and identity are, especially to those in the LBGTQI2S community. Most of us do not want to be boxed in, so why limit ourselves to how we look, behave and express ourselves? In fact, today, with so many mental health issues arising, we should encourage the opposite. We each all have so many different identities (parent, child, employee, volunteer…), different struggles…one cannot possibly know us just by looking at us, as one said “they cannot know what it would look like to look through my eyes.”
Staggering statistics on Day 2 delivered by Kevin set the mood for discussing the Trans individual and their lives. 42% of Canadian Youth are homeless because of their sexual orientation, with 40% of suicide victims in the LBGTQI2S community. Mary Barter, Youth Engagement Coordinator attending, was angered by these statistics. “I feel angry that people have to feel isolated and alone.”
Following the morning discussion, participants engaged in an impactful activity inviting participants to live a few emotional moments as a LBGTQI2S individual. Coming Out Stars enticed tears, fear and internal reflection that proffered declaration of personal change and influence.
“As a mother of a child who has come out as gay, I fear for the life she will live.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and family who have supported me.”
“What a risk it is to come out, I don’t live that world, and found myself unable to relate, but I feel guilty that I am part of a society that has caused so much pain.”
As the conference came to a close, Kevin reminded everyone of his earlier challenge to make changes, to educate and make the world more inclusive and safer for all. Some suggestions included offering preferred pronouns in email signature lines, providing support and training for staff; placing visuals and communications in public areas of office, changing policies to specify acceptance; and use inclusive language to name a few.
Kevin and Martin congratulated the participants for taking part in the change by attending the conference. Thanking SWCEV for the opportunity, Kevin added “doing seminars like this will help the next generation with supports in ‘coming out'”
For more information on how you can create an inclusive, safer work place environment check out Egale Canada.
Thank you to the Western Star for covering our conference in the media. Check it out!