Petrolia Library offers families PRIDE help

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Many teens feel different or isolated, but when that when they are struggling with their gender or sexuality, navigating the road ahead can be tough.
So the Petrolia Library is trying to help. On Oct. 20, an all-day PRIDE information event was held to offer local youth and their families a chance to access groups and services that can help ease the way for youth who identify within the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans gender, queer) spectrum.
Rebound Spectrum Facilitators Julie Claeys and Ky Nahmabin made a presentation outlining some of the difficulties for those who don’t identify with the gender they were born with, as well as some of the ways local support groups provide assistance.
Claeys says the Spectrum drop-in group welcomes youth who are coping with the challenges of sexual and gender diversity. This safe non-judgemental meeting place helps youth gain self-confidence and feel comfortable with their sexualities. She says a large percentage of people who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum say they knew there was a difference by age 12, some well before that.
Claeys says “coming out” to parents is sometimes rough, but the challenge doesn’t end there. Rachel Dawson, a spokesperson for the Sarnia PRIDE Alliance, agrees there are on-going challenges. “When you come out, it’s an adjustment. A lot of people think when you have the support of your family, it’s easier, but it’s not. People don’t realize that when you come out, your family comes out with you,” she says. “After I came out, I had to figure out what PRIDE is.”
Ky Nahmabin, a First Nations facilitator with Rebound Spectrum, says she knew by the age of 12 that she was not comfortable with her conventional gender role.
“It was extremely hard to figure out how to talk about it,”’ she said. “You lose friends, but you also gain some new ones.”
She says indigenous people use the term, two-spirit, indicating someone who possesses the social characteristics of both men and women with visions of both sexes based on their innate nature. Instead of being the target of abuse, these individuals are viewed as having sacred gifts and are treated with reverence.
The transitions of youth are already difficult enough but for those fall within the LGBTQ spectrum, life can be full of unforeseen pitfalls. From verbal taunts, bullying, and cyberbullying, to outright physical abuse, many young people experience horrors that are born of ignorance and unfounded prejudice. Statistics Canada notes an average of 500 Canadian youth ages 10-24 die by suicide every year and 33 per cent of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide compared to 7 per cent of youth in general.
In the area, there are several places for young LGBTQ individuals and their families to find support. Bluewater PFLAG is a support group for parents, families and friends. Meetings are held every second Friday of the month at 7 p.m. at High Park Church in Sarnia. Sarnia PRIDE Alliance can be reached at sarniapride@gmail.com. The Sarnia-Lambton Rebound Spectrum group can be contacted by calling 519-344-2841.

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