“First Conversations”

The Cause

My idea is to create a community outreach event in March 2016. This event, called \"First Conversations,\" creates a space of inclusion where members of the immigrant community can enter into dialogue about what it means to be LGBTQ in Edmonton. We would advertise this event at LGBTQ and immigrant and refugee support organizations, such as the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and the Edmonton PFLAG Chapter. As I have witnessed with the student population at NorQuest College (55% of whom are born outside Canada), many newcomers to Canada have questions, misconceptions, or confusion around the idea of LGBTQ lives and wish to have \"first conversations.\" This day-long event would feature a colloquium of speakers who would discuss coming out stories in Edmonton, their experiences with identity (eg., being both Muslim and gay), and a session on \"being a good ally\" which provides participants with information about creating positive, bully-free spaces, using inclusive language, and uncovering prejudicial issues that may be invisible to straight, white, Edmontonians. Ultimately, this event would create ongoing dialogue between LGBTQ community leaders and community leaders from immigrant, ethnic, and minority religion communities.

Who Will it Benefit?

This event would benefit the larger Edmonton Community by supporting dialogue between post-secondary education (NorQuest College), new Canadians, and Edmontonians who want to be more informed about LGBTQ issues and advocacy. Not everybody has the language to talk about or to LGBTQ people. Similarly, the LGBTQ language sometimes does not accommodate differences in experience that include variations in culture, geography, gender identities, religious identities, families and so on. This event will provide a forum that will help people recognize how to break down these barriers on a practical, everyday level. The event will provide new Canadians with an opportunity to ask questions about customs, culture and language related to LGBTQ people that might otherwise seem taboo, such as “When should I say “lesbian”? What does it mean when some people use “gay” as an insult? What is drag? How can I access information about same-sex immigration?”. It will also give new LGBTQ Canadians the opportunity to share their stories and hear the stories of others who have undergone the similar experiences and to learn about ways to access support if necessary. At the same time, members from Edmonton’s LGBTQ community will have the opportunity to learn about the unique challenges related to immigration and LGBTQ immigration. Although our specific focus will be on creating dialogue amongst Edmonton’s LGBTQ communities and new Canadians, this event will benefit the Edmonton community in general by fostering conversation, education, and community relationships.