Pride: 2017 Edition

This week’s blog is brought authored by B.H., a YW team member and advocate extraordinaire. 

Calgary Pride 2017 is this weekend and I find myself reflecting on change. Pride has grown in Calgary year-after-year resulting in a need to expand to a larger location to accommodate the crowds. Political controversy abounds at Pride events throughout North America and reminds us how important it is for Calgary to celebrate individuality and the freedom to express ourselves. I am always wondering what we can do on the ground, front line, to help people’s lives be at least a little easier. I work at YW’s Mary Dover House transitional housing program – a program that supports women’s self-sufficiency and empowerment with the ultimate goal of obtaining safe, sustainable housing in the community. I remember starting here as a student, almost three years ago and hearing someone ask “can we accept someone who is transgender into our program?” and I remember being shocked that this was a question. I learned quickly that many agencies supporting women and many shelters were asking similar questions. I am happy to say that we no longer ask this question. Earlier this year, YW released an important document, our Practice Framework. Part of the beliefs outlined is barrier free, inclusive service. I am happy to say that improving our practice is an ongoing conversation and I can see how the steps we have taken have had an impact on the population we support.

I work at YW’s Mary Dover House transitional housing program – a program that supports women’s self-sufficiency and empowerment with the ultimate goal of obtaining safe, sustainable housing in the community. I remember starting here as a student, almost three years ago and hearing someone ask “can we accept someone who is transgender into our program?” and I remember being shocked that this was a question. I learned quickly that many agencies supporting women and many shelters were asking similar questions. I am happy to say that we no longer ask this question. Earlier this year, YW released an important document, our Practice Framework. Part of the beliefs outlined is barrier free, inclusive service. I am happy to say that improving our practice is an ongoing conversation and I can see how the steps we have taken have had an impact on the population we support.

From the front lines, I have seen more diversity in the clients we support and more connections being made with other agencies to collaborate and work together. The increased level of diversity I believe is due to our agency taking steps to be more visible in the community by attending events like the Pride Parade, ensuring our website reflects our inclusive belief system and staff education. This increased diversity could also be due to the ongoing need for services and supports that remove barriers for people who identify as LGBTQ*.

During the past three years, we have heard many stories of discrimination that range from people sleeping in their cars in the dead of winter because there was no appropriate, available shelter for them, to people staying with abusive partners because their safety is not guaranteed at a women’s shelter. I have heard stories of people being fired or turned away from job opportunities because they expressed their gender identity, to people’s families disowning them and forcing them into homelessness because of who they love.

I hear many people ask why we still need a Pride Parade and as someone who is part of that community and as a social worker, I see the need for continued visibility. Agencies and organizations need to visibly show that they are open, otherwise, it can easily be assumed they are not. Pride itself is visibility, where people with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities and gender identities can all come together to march together in creating change, acceptance and respect.

2017-09-01T15:13:35+00:00 September 3rd, 2017|Our View|