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Driving a wedge in our community.

As a member of Cochrane's LGBTQ2S+ community, I’d like to address G. Bertram’s letter to the editor, “Please keep crosswalks as crosswalks.” I know for the most part, Cochranites are welcoming and warm, but in publishing this letter the Cochrane Eagle grants the author’s viewpoint more legitimacy than it has — which drives a wedge in our community. This is tragic, considering the crosswalk was proposed as a way to celebrate our differences and bring Cochrane together.

I’d love to help Bertram (whose full name was not provided) understand a few things. The conversations about inclusive crosswalks aren’t driven by political agendas. Queer and trans folks, for instance, don't want to be “raised above” other groups, as the author asserts: we want access to the same human rights and protections as everyone else. But our particular history means that to get there, we might need different supports.

While the Facebook replies to Bertram’s letter have been heartening, there are still those who don’t understand why these things matter so much to sexual and gender minorities. The colourful crosswalks popping up all over the world aren’t just cheerful pieces of streetscape — they’re critical to health, wellness, and a sense of belonging.

One thing that sets the LGBTQ2S+ community apart from the other groups this author has listed (blondes, celiacs) is our discrepancies in physical health, suicidality, substance abuse, poverty, depression, anxiety, and more. These aren’t because of anything innate about being a sexual or gender minority. They're the result of discrimination and marginalization — often a lifetime of it.

Two thirds of LGBTQ2S+ youth are reported to feel unsafe at school. 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ2S+, usually because of family rejection. More than 10 percent of hate crimes in Canada are perpetrated on queer and trans people, and they’re among the most violent. Up to three quarters of LGB seniors in care are afraid to come out. Many of these numbers are higher for racial minorities and transgender folks.

Cochrane’s crosswalk has been proposed as a way to celebrate all kinds of diversity, and this kind of visual act of inclusion shows LGBTQ2S+ folks, people of colour, and other minority groups that they’re not alone, they’re loved, and their community wants them to feel safe.

Bertram criticizes the Eagle’s editorial supporting the diversity crosswalk. I’m a queer person with one foot in journalism, so these issues are always on my mind. The media in a democratic nation has to continuously balance protection of minorities with freedom of expression; what Bertram calls “bias” is actually evidence of this balancing act.

Marginalized groups like LGBTQ2S+ folks and communities of colour need allies more than ever, as proved by this letter and the inclusion of anti-minority voices in this election. Whether you’re a journalist or a community member, being an ally means more than Pride events and sharing warm and fuzzy articles — it means speaking up and tipping the balance when it swings the wrong direction.

The acronym “LGBTQ2S+” stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, Two Spirit, and all other sexual and gender minorities.

- Briana Sharpe

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