Pride Week was recently celebrated by LGBTQ community members, allies and others, and the response seemed to be a positive one.
By Samantha Emann, special to the Times-Herald
From my research I can see that Moose Jaw, as a city, has taken steps to become more inclusive and accepting of sexual diversity and human rights as it pertains to the LGBTQ community.
In a recent Times-Herald article Joe Wickenhauser, chairperson of Moose Jaw Pride, said he received a lot of support for the LGBTQ community and Pride events.
As I poured over both recent and archived Times-Herald content, trying to get a measure of local opinion, I could see that positive steps have been taken on the issue of informing the community, as well as making it an accepting and comfortable place for all of its citizens.
However I, as well as others, know that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that basic rights are given to everyone, and not only that, but that people can live their lives day to day without fear of discrimination, violence or prejudice based on gender identity and expression of their sexuality.
And there are factors that are still present in Moose Jaw and many other places in the province that impede progress towards equal rights.
One of those factors and, arguably, the biggest factor is religion, or rather, the way some adherents interpret their theology.
That is not to say that all religious people or figures are an impediment to progress on this issue: Moose Jaw is home to a number of people in the religious community who help, rather than hinder, the cause.
Personally, I find it abhorrent to justify condemning or persecuting members of the LGBTQ community, or depriving them of any of the same rights afforded to heterosexuals, on the basis of any religious text or institution.
I do believe in the right to freedom of religion as set out in the Canadian Charter, but when those beliefs infringe on the rights of others, the waters get murky and the issue divisive.
I say this having read published letters and statements from a number members of the Moose Jaw community, which almost always used the Bible or their chosen religion to justify their non-progressive and dare I say backward, sometimes barbaric beliefs.
It is also worth noting there are some within the same community who have recently published messages of compassion, support and outreach.
You can read any local news publication to see what I am talking about.
Religion is by no means the only culprit; stigma stemming from negative propaganda of previous generations contributes greatly to the problem as well.
Scientists have done a lot to disprove many previously-held incorrect beliefs about the idea of nature vs. nurture in the case of sexual and gender diversity, especially in the areas of human biology and neuroscience where nature (i.e. genetics) clearly becomes the scientifically viable answer to that question.
Hopefully we are past that point and can move on to the next step towards equality.
One step I think would drastically improve the attitudes and inclusiveness of the community would be something Wickenhauser suggested: clubs or gatherings in schools dedicated to encouraging kids of any gender or sexuality to be accepting while giving young people a safe place to ask questions and explore their own identities without fear of judgement.
I also agree with Wickenhauser that a similar gathering or safe place for seniors and Baby Boomers to discuss and learn in a positive atmosphere is also a very important initiative.
These kinds of steps must be taken, and soon, if Moose Jaw is to have any hope of being able to adapt to a modern society that is quickly becoming more concerned and compassionate, and rightly so, on the issue of equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Instead of simply listing my grievances with organized religion or generational stigma as they apply to this issue, I would rather use this column as an open call for conversation on the subject.
Dialogue is important, and as such, I invite anyone with an opinion or an idea to contact me for further discussion on any of the topics I have raised and I will be happy to do my part to contribute to that dialogue. And I think the other people and organizations in Moose Jaw that have worked hard deserve praise for continuing to show love and compassion and for having the courage to stand up for who they are and what they believe in.
The views and opinions stated in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Times-Herald.