Picture this: You were young and went through considerable hardship battling demons within you. Now, you are in a much better place, having come to realize the demons are nothing to be afraid of but to be embraced.
And then, this: you get a single piece of paper on your front doorstep, telling you will burn in hell for coming to an acceptance that has saved you. Go to any Church, and you will find the salvation of Christ, it reads.
It goes on to say that unless you take down rainbow pride flag from your window, they will call the police.
This is a true story of a young, now openly gay local man, and it is unfortunately not an uncommon story for lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people.
The risks to a young person struggling with their sexuality or gender expression are real. According to a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce on youth homelessness, LGBT youth face homelessness at a “disproportionate rate,” with 20-40 per cent of all homeless youth identifying as LGBT. The report also states 26 per cent of LGBT teens were kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents.
There is the issue of suicide. One report, “Talking about suicide and LGBT populations,” suggests suicide rates for LGBT are not available because of a lack of data. It does allow that compared to straight people that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are “more likely” to report having made a suicide attempt, and transgender people report an even higher prevalence of suicide. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of colour, face an alarming rate of violence, as well.
You get the point. Members of the LGBT community face grave danger just living their lives.
This is why support is needed, particularly in rural Alberta, which has a reputation for being socially conservative on this topic. Take for instance a pride flag being removed in the Town of Taber, and the replacement flag later being burned, just this past summer.
The young man mentioned in the beginning of this editorial, Tristan Greentree, recognizes the issues faced by LGBT people, because he has lived them. Now he is starting up what appears to be the first LGBT support group in Athabasca to provide support for those walking a similar path, hoping to educate the general public on the way.