Members of Comox Valley Pride are hoping for sunshine as their annual Pride Weekend approaches.
This Saturday, Comox Valley Pride will host a dance open to all members of the public. The event has, in past, attracted roughly 150 attendees from the Valley, Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Victoria.
Although liquor will be served, board member Deb Field says the annual fundraiser is “youth-inclusive.” Tickets are available at the door and priced on a sliding scale; $10 for adults, $5 for youth.
The public is also invited to attend Comox Valley Pride’s 13th annual pride picnic this Sunday at Marina Park in downtown Comox. While beverages will be served, participants are asked to supply their own picnic lunch.
Although attendees from Comox Valley Pride will be happy to explain their mandate and discuss GLBTTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit and queer) issues, Pride Weekend is primarily an opportunity for local members of the pride community to connect and socialize.
As board member Deb Field explains, Comox Valley Pride’s mission is to “unite the Pride community, be visible and celebrate diversity.”
In addition to “communicating with government, community and corporations to discuss GLBTTQ related issues and ways to support GLBTTQ people in the community,” Field says that much of what Comox Valley Pride does is organizing events and social activities.
She adds that Comox Valley Pride is an especially useful resource for newcomers wanting to get in touch with the pride community.
In addition to hosting a monthly social at Games and Grounds Coffee House in Courtenay, Comox Valley Pride has also held monthly discussion groups this year. To help keep GLBTTQ persons informed about events and activities relevant to their interests, Comox Valley Pride also has an e-mail list through which roughly 160 people receive updates.
The non-profit organization hopes government will eventually play a larger part in ensuring LGBTQ persons feel comfortable and socially active in their communities.
As the Valley’s “only formal entity representing the pride community,” Field says Comox Valley Pride is attempting to address a gap in services available to GLBTTQ communities due to a lack of government programs.
Comox Valley Pride is especially concerned with the number of resources available to GLBTTQ youth in the Valley.
“There is no program in the Comox Valley specifically for LBGT and questioning youth, and this is a significant issue we need to address,” says Field.
A study published by Egale Canada, an advocacy organization to advance equality, justice, diversity and education for members of the pride community, confirms the lack of services available to youth suffering the effects of homo- and transphobia.
Egale Canada’s executive director Helen Kennedy says that, “According to the best available statistics, nearly one-third of LGBT do not complete high school as a result of the violence, harassment and isolation they face. These kids hear these taunts up to 75 times a day in school yards, and that’s not OK.”
“And yet these kids have nowhere to go,” laments Field — despite the fact that such youth are at a significantly higher risk for suicide than their heterosexual classmates.
In an effort to provide support unavailable to youth through government programs, Field says Comox Valley Pride has hosted two successful youth events this year at Games and Grounds Coffee House.
The gatherings have been an opportunity for kids who “couldn’t go to the usual places to hang out, sing some karaoke… to be themselves and not have to worry about bullying,” says Field.
The first five-hour event attracted 18 local youth, and 14 kids showed up to the second; all expressed interest in attending similar events in future.
“The kids want more of this,” says Field, who explains that Comox Valley Pride is in the process of making more services available to GLBTTQ kids. They eventually hope to provide a venue whereby youth could easily access information and support, and are raising funds toward a youth centre.
Having secured a number of willing facilitators, Comox Valley Pride is looking for a partner.