Windsor-Essex Pride Fest

Pride Fest holds community consultation in Amherstburg

By Jonathan Martin

 

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest is putting new emphasis on the county.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held a consultation with the Windsor-based organization last Wednesday to help it build programming for the town’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

Local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community met with Pride Fest president David Lenz, Pride Fest project coordinator Karen Kahelin and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. Together, the group discussed what they believe Amherstburg needs to do in order to improve life for its minorities.

Two such community members, Jmar Eduarte and Kenny Goggin, are set to be married in March of 2019. Goggin was raised in Amherstburg, but spent some time abroad after high school. He said it wasn’t until he landed in Dubai, where he met Eduarte, that he fully embraced his sexuality. Despite coming to accept himself and learning to love another, he said he didn’t believe Amherstburg was ready to do the same. After attending Wednesday’s meeting, he thinks his mind has changed.

Jmar Eduarte (right) listens to his fiancée, Kenny Goggin, as he shares his experiences as a gay man living in Amherstburg at Amherstburg Community Services last Wednesday. Pride Fest Windsor-Essex held a community consultation at ACS to assess the needs of Amherstburg’s LBGTQ2S+ community.

“I would have never expected to see this in Amherstburg growing up,” he said. “Amherstburg is a very LGBTQ-friendly town, whether it knows it or not. The issues I thought I’d have living my life do not exist. They aren’t there.”

Goggin’s optimism was tempered by a recurring theme of fragmentation within the community, though. He echoed the sentiment of another local who attended the consultation, saying that he didn’t feel people on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum were visible enough or received enough acknowledgement by administration.

“I would have really liked to see a member of council here tonight,” he said.

Pride Fest president David Lenz said an invitation to Wednesday’s consultation was extended to town hall. No representatives were present.

“We’re trying to assess the needs of each community,” Lenz said. “Using the feedback we receive at these consultations, which will be ongoing, we’ll develop programs tailored to each community and put them on.”

Lenz said Pride Fest has already met with members of the town of Essex, has reached out to Leamington and plans to hold a meeting in Lakeshore. The outreach efforts are being funded by a Trillium grant that was handed out in March of 2017. The money will flow for three years, at which point Lenz said he hopes to apply for additional funding to keep the outreach efforts going.

Karen Kahelin (right) listens to Pride Fest Windsor-Essex president David Lenz speak at Amherstburg Community Services.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said Pride Fest’s outreach has already made an impact on her. She said Pride Fest asked if ACS would be willing to lend them its facilities, which she agreed to. She said she hopes it’s the first of many partnerships.

“Tonight, two organizations have come together in the hopes of addressing the needs of our community,” she said. “There are services which we already provide which perhaps could be extended to members of the LGBTQ community, such as transportation to Windsor Pride events, which is a need that was brought up a few times tonight.”

Goggin agreed with DiBartolomeo. He said the meeting itself was a positive change.

“Amherstburg is a great place to grow up and live your life,” he said. “Meetings like this will make that more evident and the message will get out there eventually.”

 

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest to hold community engagement sessions in county

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Those within the LGBTIQ2S+ community are being called upon to attend community engagement sessions throughout the county over the next couple of months as a local organization plans to deliver new specialized programs.

With funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WEPF) is planning to develop and deliver recreational and social programs to ensure all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S+) community have access to programming to ensure that they can connect and engage with other members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community and the greater community as a whole.

“The best way for us to understand what type of engagement would best serve the LGBTIQ2S+ community, especially outside of Windsor, is to hold community consultations to give members of the Windsor-Essex community the opportunity to tell us what programs they would like to see, and what are the best ways for us to provide opportunities for engagement and connection,” said David Lenz, president of the WEPF. “We chose the Town of Essex, Municipality of Leamington and the Town of Amherstburg as our Community Consultation locations.”

Lenz said they hope all members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community who live outside the city of Windsor limits, as well as their families, will attend the sessions to share their thoughts and ideas on how WEPF can best provide opportunities for connections and engagement in their respective communities. WEPF wants to know exactly what kinds of programs and social activities people in the LGBTIQ2S+ community need and want.

Currently, WEPF does not have any programming opportunities available in Amherstburg.

“The LGBTIQ2S+ community experiences a unique social isolation compared with other marginalized groups,” said Lenz. “Research indicates that the individuals in the LGBTTQIA community are 2.5 times more likely to live alone. The lack of peer or social support, activities, gatherings or other connective resources in the community cause a form of social isolation that often escalates into a number of other problems, including homelessness, depression, violence, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse and dropping out of school for some LGBTIQ2S+ youth.”

This is the reason the WEPF non-profit organization was developed. It is incorporated in the Province of Ontario and run by a volunteer Board of Directors, geared towards bringing members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S) community together, as well as their friends, allies and supporters.

“Through advocacy, social programs/events and initiatives, WEPF strengthens the sense of community and contributes to the vibrancy, health and overall well-being of LGBTIQ2S persons in Windsor-Essex,” said Lenz. “Windsor-Essex Pride Fest’s goal through it’s social programs funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation is to support the LGBTIQ2S community by empowering individuals to reach out to each other and to facilitate opportunities for connection and belonging through age-specific activities or initiatives, peer-facilitated groups, workshops and special events which will address social isolation and create a social environment that is more accommodating, resilient and connected to the broader LGBTTQIA community in Windsor-Essex.”

The community engagement session in Amherstburg is Jan. 31 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Amherstburg Community Services office.