With the controversy swirling around the Best Practices guidelines that were released late last month by Alberta Education, for Dr. Jillian Demontigny, a group like the Taber Equality Alliance is needed now more than ever.
The group has been been gaining traction since June, with members both in Taber and Lethbridge. The group’s goal is to create a safe space in the community for sexual and gender identity minorities and their allies.
It foucuses on a more welcoming and inclusive community through community engagement, partnerships, social groups and advocacy.
“We are growing slowly, but steadily and we are open to new members. Our current membership includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals as well as cis straight allies,” said Demontigny, adding that the group has a Facebook page.
The group strives to increase awareness of LGBTQ rights issues, but also simply be a place that is safe and welcoming for people to bond in friendship.
“Ultimately, the group wants to have a social committee, to arrange events where we can hang out, and all attendees feel comfortable and safe being themselves. For instance, maybe a monthly coffeehouse night, or a bad karaoke event,” said Demontigny. “Also, the group can serve as an advocacy arm, where we have information nights presented by a group from OUTreach southern Alberta on how we can be better allies and supports to each other.”
As Best Practices’ intent is to promote a more open and caring school environment for both students and teachers alike, Demontigny sees them as another positive step forward in LGBTQ rights.
“LGBTQ rights are as important as they have always been —extremely important. This is literally a matter of life or death. For a gender or sexuality minority person, the way they are treated, be it appreciated and supported versus rejected and despised, has a direct effect on rates of depression and suicide,” said Demontigny.
“This is a cause that is very, very close to my heart, as a physician. It is for my lesbian, gay and transgendered patients and their family members. Taber had felt welcoming and open to me when I arrived, and it took a few years for me to learn that not every person here feels the same. I believe we are capable of incredible growth as a community.”