We live in a region where resources for members of the queer community are sparse, to say the least. With the loss of JAG’s Montérégie West office due to lack of funding last April, there is nowhere in the Haut-Saint-Laurent for LGBTQ2SIA+ residents to go for support, except for the clubs offered in local high schools. It can be alienating, living in an area where there are no places to express part of yourself.
There has been a collective feeling in the North American queer community that 2023, for the first time in recent years, saw regression in terms of acceptance and understanding. We saw protests against Pride events, aggressive backlash against drag queens, and Statistics Canada noted a 64 per cent rise in hate crimes towards people based on their orientation.
Dominique Théberge, the director general of JAG, recently shared that there is a higher number of reports of violence towards queer people in the Haut-Saint-Laurent compared to other regions. In the Valley, we pride ourselves on being community-oriented: we know our neighbours, we care about local businesses, and we take care of each other. But if we are letting people get away with violence, and neglecting queer residents, we aren’t caring for our community as a whole.
It’s hard to feel there is concern at a political level when there are so few queer people elected. In an ideal world, more queer people would be in office, and resources would not be so scarce. However, with the way things are right now, we need allies. We need people in local governments to speak openly and directly about supporting the queer community in order to set the standard. Without this direct support, it becomes easier to erase queer identities.
In our personal lives, we need allies who are friends, teachers, co-workers, family members; we need people in our lives to help us fight these battles. The internet has a wealth of information on allyship: Eagle.ca is a queer Canadian website with incredible resources. But the biggest way to be an ally is to be respectful, open-minded, and willing to stand up to homophobia and transphobia when it happens. Confronting someone can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is vital to the survival of the queer community and the preservation of our Valley community as a whole.