Andrea Brennan is honoured to offer a blessing at the start of the Elk Valley Pride Festival each fall, kicking off the Fernie event with a welcome that encourages recognition, acceptance, and inclusivity.

“Some LGBTQ2+ youth and adults were raised in environments that taught them they were ‘less than’ because of their sexuality,” she explains. “The Fernie Pride Society hosts events where anyone can come and feel safe. I want every LGBTQ2+ person to know that they are loved.”

The passionate board member of the Fernie Pride Society was amazed by the positive response to the organization’s recent year-long project, which focused on boosting its presence in the community by amping up its communications and outreach.

“Fernie is a small town, and some residents have no idea or experience with what it is to be ‘gay.’ The Fernie Pride Society creates a place for dialogue, for conversation, and for people to learn about one another.”

A grant from Columbia Basin Trust assisted the Society with helping diverse people who live in the Elk Valley and surrounding area feel supported.

The Society provides information, resources, and referrals for individuals and families struggling with gender and sexual identity. By organizing youth programming the Fernie Pride Program Coordinator aims to create connections between LGBTQ2+ individuals and develop a sense of community.

“Individuals who feel isolated because of their gender or sexual identity reach out for support,” explains Kevin Allen, Fernie Pride Society board member. “Just recently, a young trans-man contacted us; he was feeling alone, and asked if there were other trans people in Fernie. We were able to connect him to other locals and regional trans support services, and we also invited him to take part in our next Fernie Pride activity.”

The Society has partnered with local schools to provide educational resources, who have responded further with their own pride initiatives, such as painting pride sidewalks and selling rainbow tuques and caps. The Society has also joined forces with local RCMP to bring the Safe Place Program to the Elk Valley. By placing a decal in their window, participating businesses and organizations clearly identify the premises as a safe haven and ally for members of the LGBTQ2+ community.

The Fernie Pride Society formed to address issues of visibility, connectedness and social isolation of LGBTQ2+ individuals.

Aimée DeCorby, who is relatively new to the area and recently joined the Fernie Pride Society, is overwhelmed by the support the organization has seen while increasing their visibility and encouraging dialogue.

“I’m so excited to find a community within Fernie that’s full of such compassion. Every person has a unique story, but I think the resounding message within this group is complete acceptance. To me, that’s very powerful and uplifting,” she says. “Community engagement is so important because it can challenge people to consider and see things from new and different perspectives. It’s been significant for the younger generation to see these examples of acceptance and know they are welcomed and celebrated for their unique identities.”

Learn more at ferniepride.ca.

Photos supplied by Fernie Pride Society.