Does Cochrane have a homophobia problem?
Meaghan Fisher, a member of the new LGBTQ resource group in Cochrane, thinks so and made the provocative comment in our last edition.
She and other members of Your Life Out, which is geared toward adults in the LGBTQ community, say they have seen and experienced bigotry and harassment in town.
Some might have seen the statement as overly harsh considering schools such as Cochrane High School have resources to support LGBTQ students through gay-straight alliances, and there have been very few high-profile incidents of violence or discrimination in town.
But what people outside the LGBTQ community see and what those within the community experience can be quite different and at times the attitudes Fisher alluded to and their ramifications do rear up into the greater public domain.
For example, when students from Cochrane High School told The Eagle their stories about wanting to find greater acceptance for their sexual orientation, some Eagle letter writers responded harshly.
While most came to the students’ defence, that is not a good enough reason to ignore those who expressed their intolerance. While those attitudes might be the minority, that doesn’t mean they are not potentially harmful and violence against the LGBTQ community is by no means a thing of the past.
A recent Statistics Canada report indicates that 16 per cent of hate crimes in Canada in 2010 were motivated by sexual orientation, and 65 per cent of those were violent in nature. By comparison, 34 per cent of hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity were violent, and 17 per cent of those motivated by religion were violent.
Feelings of isolation, bullying and being ostracized have also severely negatively affected the mental health of people within the LGBTQ community. Previous Statistics Canada shows that 33 per cent of LGBTQ teens attempt suicide compared to seven per cent of youth in general.
A recent report out of the United States indicated that suicide rates in the LGBTQ community drops in those jurisdictions that have legalized same sex marriage.
That suggests a correlation between mental health and wider community acceptance of lifestyle, which would be obvious to most if they had occasion to think about it – which most of the straight community does not because such acceptance is taken for granted.
While Cochrane is a community where tolerance of other people and lifestyle is the prevailing attitude, it is unwise to ignore the smaller minority of intolerance and settle for mostly OK.
Sometimes it takes provocative statements such as Fisher’s to make people sit up and listen and understand there is room for improvement.