Windsor-Essex Pride Fest is putting new emphasis on the county.
Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held a consultation with the Windsor-based organization last Wednesday to help it build programming for the town’s LGBTQ2S+ community.
Local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community met with Pride Fest president David Lenz, Pride Fest project coordinator Karen Kahelin and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. Together, the group discussed what they believe Amherstburg needs to do in order to improve life for its minorities.
Two such community members, Jmar Eduarte and Kenny Goggin, are set to be married in March of 2019. Goggin was raised in Amherstburg, but spent some time abroad after high school. He said it wasn’t until he landed in Dubai, where he met Eduarte, that he fully embraced his sexuality. Despite coming to accept himself and learning to love another, he said he didn’t believe Amherstburg was ready to do the same. After attending Wednesday’s meeting, he thinks his mind has changed.
“I would have never expected to see this in Amherstburg growing up,” he said. “Amherstburg is a very LGBTQ-friendly town, whether it knows it or not. The issues I thought I’d have living my life do not exist. They aren’t there.”
Goggin’s optimism was tempered by a recurring theme of fragmentation within the community, though. He echoed the sentiment of another local who attended the consultation, saying that he didn’t feel people on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum were visible enough or received enough acknowledgement by administration.
“I would have really liked to see a member of council here tonight,” he said.
Pride Fest president David Lenz said an invitation to Wednesday’s consultation was extended to town hall. No representatives were present.
“We’re trying to assess the needs of each community,” Lenz said. “Using the feedback we receive at these consultations, which will be ongoing, we’ll develop programs tailored to each community and put them on.”
Lenz said Pride Fest has already met with members of the town of Essex, has reached out to Leamington and plans to hold a meeting in Lakeshore. The outreach efforts are being funded by a Trillium grant that was handed out in March of 2017. The money will flow for three years, at which point Lenz said he hopes to apply for additional funding to keep the outreach efforts going.
ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said Pride Fest’s outreach has already made an impact on her. She said Pride Fest asked if ACS would be willing to lend them its facilities, which she agreed to. She said she hopes it’s the first of many partnerships.
“Tonight, two organizations have come together in the hopes of addressing the needs of our community,” she said. “There are services which we already provide which perhaps could be extended to members of the LGBTQ community, such as transportation to Windsor Pride events, which is a need that was brought up a few times tonight.”
Goggin agreed with DiBartolomeo. He said the meeting itself was a positive change.
“Amherstburg is a great place to grow up and live your life,” he said. “Meetings like this will make that more evident and the message will get out there eventually.”