Rainbow coffee a future outlet for LGBT+ youth
Come as you are.
That is the message that organizers wanted young people and their family and friends to understand when they came to the first Rainbow Coffee on Sept. 14.
In correspondence with Humboldt’s first Pride Week, the first coffee took place at PARTNERS Family Services and will be every Wednesday at 4:00 pm following.
Student, Brinn Inkpen-Bailey, sees the need for this gathering as a safe place for LGBT+ youth to come and just be themselves.
Growing up, Inkpen-Bailey always knew he was different and felt secluded from his peers.
Rainbow Coffee is a way for all youth to just be themselves.
“I know a lot kids around my age don’t know themselves fully yet and this group will help them find who they are.”
Even though PARTNERS is providing this space for the coffee, Executive Director, Hayley Kennedy says that this is a community lead group, not a PARTNERS initiative, though they are helping out wherever they can.
Also involved in driving the coffee forward, was the PFLAG Humboldt chapter and Sarah Miller, long before PARTNERS came on the scene, says Kennedy, along with Mental Health and Addictions, Saskatchewan Pride Network, Pride Moose Jaw, and St. Peter’s College.
PARTNERS Support in Humboldt for LGBT+ youth and family is a program that has been sorely lacking in the past, admits Kennedy.
As a social worker, Erin Plamondon-Braun sees the need for a platform to help kids deal with finding their own identity and was also a major facilitator in getting the Rainbow Coffee to Humboldt.
The coffee is going to be kid focused with Plamondon-Braun and Kennedy being the facilitators of what the young people want to do.
“All kids deserve to be healthy and to offer a platform for them to be healthy is very important.”
Unlike other youth groups, confidentiality needs to be enforced to keep the place safe for young people who are questioning or are not out at all.
The LGBT+ community is small in Humboldt but it is growing and PARTNERS wants to be a part of supporting the community.
“For us, this is a starting point to start to explore the need here and start offering supports and services to make sure we’re inclusive in all of our services.”
PARTNERS does everything it can to support safe and sustainable communities, says Kennedy. The lack of appropriate support for the LGBT+ community keeps them from doing that.
Having services only in urban centres, like Saskatoon or Regina, is restrictive for anyone needing services in rural areas.
“We know that LGBT+ youth do experience higher rates of mental health issues. There are additional risk factors for LGBT+ youth that aren’t addressed through general programing.”
Plamondon-Braun is a great clinical support for the LGBT+ community because she is very cognisant of these issues, says Kennedy.
Faith communities welcoming LGBT+ community
Pride week wrapped up in Humboldt this week with a diversity service at the Westminister United Church followed by a social at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church.
Moose Jaw Pride Education Coordinator, Laura Budd, was the guest speaker at the church service and discussed her own experience.
Being born a male, it took her 45 years to come out to her family and finally be herself.
Budd explained her own experience as being puzzle pieces that did not match the picture on the box.
“I learned to hide who I was. Men don’t share their feelings, they don’t cry, they don’t share, and they don’t reach out with a loving hand because they’re told to be strong.”
Budd was one of these men who cried in silence because she spent her life frustrated about who she felt she was and who society told her to be.
“I ended up becoming a shell where what people saw and what people knew of me was not me.”
Budd felt very welcome in Humboldt. Walking into the church before the service, her and her wife were welcomed with smiles and waves.
They knew they were in the right place, says Budd.
That has been the biggest message in Humboldt this past week, says Budd, is telling people of gender and sexual diversity that they are welcome in this community.
“The world is changing and changing for the better where we accept people for what they have. The gifts that you have, share them. Be you.”
Budd also talked about scripture readings and how the bible has been interpreted to exclude the LGBT+ community, a common passage being Leviticus which is quoted often as evidence.
Reading the whole chapter, says Budd, it can be taken to mean that using homosexuality as a way to overpower someone is wrong but loving relationships are not included in that.
“Our god is a loving god. Our god accepts us for who we are before are told by the world who we should be.”
That relationship is a personal one and should not be defined within a church or within a congregation, says Budd, and we should not be letting others tell us who to love and who to hate.
Budd has since found her place within her faith and has discovered her calling in educating those about the LGBT+ community and to help people see them as present in history and as human beings.
Discrimination is not something that happens because of hate, says Budd, but through a lack of education and a lack of understanding.
“When we see people unlike ourselves, people with different faiths, religions, colours of skin, beliefs, political views other than our own, we judge them to protect ourselves from what we don’t know or don’t understand.”
Through our words and actions, we keep different people at arms length because we do not see them as like ourselves.
We need to break those walls down, says Budd.
Humboldt’s first Pride Week wrap
Sarah Miller wanted a safe place for her son to grow up.
That is a substantial reason for all of her work with the PFLAG Canada Humboldt chapter and getting Pride Week to Humboldt.
“Oliver is going to school here in Humboldt. I wanted make sure that it is an inclusive environment, that he be comfortable going to school knowing that he has two moms.”
Miller’s initial plan was just creating a dialogue where people feel comfortable but that has lead to the forming of PFLAG Humboldt that has been in existence for five years.
This has been the first year that they have had the manpower and support to help, including the work from Pride Moose Jaw and Saskatchewan Pride Network, says Miller.
All the events were inclusive and provided space for anyone who wanted to talk, including the flag raising, the rainbow coffee, the Be Yourself bowling night, and the diversity service and social.
Miller says having the Saskatchewan Pride Network at Streetfest supported the idea that Humboldt was ready for Pride Week. Knowing people were willing to support it is one thing, but people who vocalized their lack of support was just as influential.
“They need to have that understanding and that knowledge that they don’t have,” says Miller.
The diverse LGBT+ Humboldt community is still closeted, says Miller because it is still a new thing to feel comfortable coming out to people in a small community.
Miller was hiding her identity more than she had to before her son was born. She says it was more of a self assurance thing since she did not know how people would react but she says she has not been discriminated against in Humboldt.
“I always had a very welcoming feeling from community members but I know it’s a lot harder for males than it is for females.”
Miller hopes that with the wrap up of Pride Week, people can be more comfortable since they know there are people who are there to support them.
Westminister United Church Reverend, Brenda Curtis, and St. Andrew’s Anglican Church Reverend, Matteo Carboni, were quick to lend their support to Humboldt Pride Week. Curtis has been apart of this discussion for years with the United Church being a safe space for all LGBT+ communities across Canada.
“The churches are a big part of the culture here in this community so it was important to engage the churches and to extend the invitation for them to be involved because of this cultural significance,” says Curtis.
The churches have a role to play in moving forward, says Curtis in welcoming the communities together.
Carboni is new to Humboldt arriving three months ago but in the Anglican faith creating a safe community is part of the baptismal vows, “to seek out where we find oppression and overturn that.”
The goals of Pride Week correlate with that so Carboni felt it was important for his church to be involved.
With the LGBT+ and ally community growing, Miller not only hopes to see Pride Week become an annual thing but also for PFLAG and pride related groups be apart of more community events, like floats in the Summer Sizzler parade and an annual booth at Streetfest.