Up until last week those searching for LGBTQ (Lesbian-Bi-Gay-Trans-Queer) supports and services in Cochrane would have come up blank.
Your Life Out, a new initiative to provide resources for the LGBTQ community in Cochrane and the surrounding area, officially launched earlier this year after the founders of the organization witnessed “homophobia ” and “discrimination ” against gay, bi-sexual, trans and queer people in town.
“There were no supports anywhere. It’s shitty – it was 2016 and there wasn’t even a link to other resources, ” explained Jennifer Lane, Your Life Out founder and president.
Despite being a community with a population of more than 25,000 with an extensive list of resources for other community and family supports, Your Life Out is the first official group offering supports to the LGBTQ community.
“It’s not easy to come out, especially in this community, ” Lane said.
The group’s formation started approximately a year ago when Lane stumbled across a post on social media where a woman shared a story about being harassed at work for being gay.
“There were horrible comments on there – one person said ‘your people should move to the other side of town,’ ” Lane explained. “Love is love and homophobia is ridiculous to me. ”
After growing up in a different community where her best friend was beaten to death for being gay in high school, and hearing rumours of LGBTQ youth in Cochrane committing suicide, Lane wanted to offer her support.
With a passion for activism, Lane and her fianc
ée Mariana Barney, originally from Mexico, searched the town’s list of resources after the incident only to find there were none available. She then approached Cochrane Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) to look for a solution.
“When they came forward they weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do – they wanted all kinds of supports but they needed a back bone agency to support it so we suggested they make a non-profit, ” explained Susan Flowers, FCSS manager.
Now, almost a year later, Lane and Barney are patiently awaiting non-profit status to kick-start Your Life Out.
“I was always taught if someone is having a problem with you being gay in the community then it’s not your problem, it’s theirs, ” Lane explained.
“I want to take my experience and advocate for people because I can. I want them to know things are not OK and that is why we are doing something – love is love. ”
The group consists of four board members, three volunteers and two intern students who will help to raise LGBTQ awareness in the community.
“Cochrane has a homophobia problem and the LGBTQ group in the community has a visibility problem, ” said Meaghan Fisher, member of the organization.
“I’ve had people come into my work with a bible and who want to discuss my ‘sin’ – that is not anomalous, that happens here. ”
Fisher, 33, moved to Cochrane less than a year ago and knows the importance of support groups having previously worked with LGBTQ groups across Canada, including Out North in Northern Canada.
“I’ve been ‘out’ for a long time but if I was younger and not as supported that incident would have been more traumatic for me, ” Fisher said.
“My motivation is invested with an idea of equity. ”
Sponsored by the Alberta Association for Equality, organizers are ready to start brainstorming with businesses and community partners to showcase LGBTQ friendly shops and stores, and start discussing future events.
“I think it is good timing for this to happen and the group has good champions to support and lead it, ” Flowers said.
For more information, go to yourlifeout.com.