Kirk Quilty is an ally to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) community in Corner Brook and as such is working with Western Pride NL to help foster a greater sense of acceptance and tolerance in the city.
Quilty, 18, is a social cultural studies student at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
He got interested in the issues affecting the LGBT community while taking a social inequalities class this past winter.
It was around the time the provincial government announced $90,000 in funding to support the establishment of gay-straight alliances in the province’s schools.
Quilty completed a paper on the intersectionality of heterosexism and what the affects of gay-straight alliances were on that.
As a straight young man, Quilty said the topic and the issues affecting the LGBT community really began to interest him.
Around the same time Corner Brook Pride, an incorporated group representing the LGBT community, which acronym sometimes includes Q for queer or questioning and A for ally, was folding.
Quilty said this lead to him and some others interested in providing a support network to the LGBT community to start Western Pride NL.
“In order to have LGBT people feel open about themselves and feel open about being able to express themselves there needs to be a large community of allies and a large community of support networks around them in order for them to kind of be in that kind of safe place where they can do that,” said Quilty.
Western Pride NL is just that sort of organization.
The group consists of representatives from the Corner Brook Status of Women Council, the Canadian Federation of University Women, Western Regional Coalition to End Violence, AIDS Committee of Western Newfoundland, Grenfell Campus Student Union, Grenfell’s social cultural studies department, Corner Brook Regional High’s Pride Alliance and Grenfell’s Gay and Straight Alliance.
“I think it’s perfectly representative of where Corner Brook is as a community,” said Quilty.
“In order to have awareness and have acceptance and have tolerance you have to have an entire community on board with this kind of initiative, because if you only have a small segment of the population kind of fully grasping a concept of acceptance towards a certain group of people then you’re not going to have a full community understanding and a full inclusive community.”
For the most part he considers Corner Brook to be an openminded, tolerant and accepting community.
He said the most common issues he sees tend to be more internalized in terms of homophobia and some of the comments that are made.
“The things we say subconsciously, like “that’s so gay.” It doesn’t register that that’s incorrect to be saying,” he said.
But since getting involved in Western Pride NL, Quilty said his perspective has changed.
“Because you become a lot more aware of it and a lot more sensitive to those issues.”
He said you recognize the sounds of intolerance right away when you hear it.
“You just register it in a different way than you have before.”
He said the concern is that when you have the atmosphere where those kinds of things are openingly said it creates an atmosphere where there’s not as much tolerance and acceptance.
“In certain instances that can lead to atmospheres where violence and discrimination can foster.”
On Sept. 8, Western Pride NL will hold what Quilty said will be the first of many events and activities to promote a community of acceptance and tolerance and raise awareness about the LGBT community.
The group will hold a pride parade that will start at the Corner Brook city hall parking lot at 11 a.m. The parade route will see participants head in Park Street, onto West Valley Road, and then onto O’Connell Drive as far as Margaret Bowater Park.
Once at the park, the celebration will continue with entertainment and a barbecue.
On Sept. 7, the group will gather at city hall for a proclamation signing and flag raising.
Quilty said the group is also making plans to mark International Day Against Homophobia and National Coming Out Day and will also co-ordinate with the pride alliances at Grenfell and Corner Brook Regional High.