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Red Deer Reality Rant #59 - Pride and Equality

Hello Red Deer and area! I usually speak about local issues but today’s blog affects more than just Red Deer, it is a national theme this time. The month of June is chock full of special days and holidays. June is also the designated month for Pride celebrations in support of the LGBTQ community. I am a firm supporter of equal rights for all people, gender, sexuality, race, or religion, I believe all humans are equal and deserve to be treated as such. There is an issue affecting central Albertans however, in regards to the queer community.

As a cisgender heterosexual female I can’t really speak to the discrimination and intolerance that many people in the LGBTQ experience. Nevertheless, I do personally know a lot of people who are in this group. I have friends and relatives who are non-binary, trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, gender fluid and queer. To me, they are only my friends and family and I am not worried about their sexuality or gender identities, and accept them for who they are.

A large portion of the people I know also suffer from mental illness. A large portion again from that group also identify themselves as LGBTQ. A double whammy of discrimination affects them, and even from the Pride community, who are in my opinion, supposed to support everyone equally. I have had many conversations with several LGBTQ people with mental illness whom have all told me the same thing: they are rejected by the Pride community here in Red Deer.

A lady that I know as a friend who happens to identify as lesbian and has the diagnosis of schizophrenia has often told me that she struggles to find love in central Alberta. Persons with schizophrenia often feel isolated and alone, she was married several years ago to another woman, who passed away from cancer and she has struggled ever since to find a date. There’s not many social groups for queer people, and all of the ones that she has tried to join have rejected her.

At least 4 people I know have told me that the Central Alberta Pride group has rejected them and said that they don’t accept people with mental illness because it “looks bad” (on the pride community). These are the very people who fight for equality for their community and promote inclusion and diversity. I think that this is a horrible, hypocritical and cruel thing to do to people who are really just in the same boat as you.

Stigma surrounding mental illness is astounding. Pride groups have worked hard over decades to fight stigma against themselves, but ostracizing people with disabilities is not the way to prove anything. Just because a person has mental illness it does not mean that they are gay, transgender, bisexual, or any sort of queer BECAUSE of their illness. They are just people who have a medical condition.

If you want to normalize your community, Central Alberta Pride, you can start by accepting people with disabilities as equals, just as you yourselves would like to be treated.


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