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LETTER: Rainbow crosswalk was start – not end of what Midland needs for LGBTQ+ acceptance

Rainbow sidewalk can't be the end of the actions taken by town and community, Midland resident says
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Most of an inclusive rainbow crosswalk was installed at Bay Street and First Street in Midland on Saturday; road crew stated the remainder would be installed by Monday.

MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at andrew@midlandtoday.ca. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). This letter concerns Midland's new rainbow sidewalk.

Dear Editor,

I would like to share my thoughts on the pride crosswalk.

I have lived in Midland all my life. I was born here, I grew up here, I went to elementary, high school and college here. I spent my summers at Little Lake, I sold Girl Guide cookies at the mall and door to door. I live here, I work here, I fell in love with my partner here. I also realized I am a bisexual, transgender man here.

I dealt with fighting to come out in high school and be respected. I dealt with being excluded from a gender-segregated school event because I’d ‘confuse the other students.'

I dealt with Facebook posts being made about me, rumours being told about me, about how I ‘would never be a real man’ and I ‘wasn’t fooling anyone.'

I was threatened at school and nothing was done about it. I saw people I care about have the cops called multiple times for being trans in public. I got intense stares and rude service in restaurants when on dates. I avoided washrooms in public as much as possible. For a while I felt like I'd have to leave town to truly be able to be myself.

Luckily, in the past few years, there has been a solid start made in this area to LGBTQ acceptance.

Pride flag raisings at town hall, some acceptance and diversity training done at some organizations, gender neutral bathrooms at some local businesses/services and some LGBTQ events pre-COVID.

The public perception and attitude towards the LGBTQ community has gotten better in the past few years, but it's still not where it should be.

The reactions I've seen on Facebook to the crosswalk being installed showed very well that there are a lot of people in the area who are not accepting yet. And when it (unfortunately, but very likely) gets vandalized, that'll show even more the work that needs to still be done.

A rainbow crosswalk is something that Midland needs. It's not a waste of money (and, by the way, it was paid for with donations and not town funds). We need to show the LGBTQ people living here and growing up here that they are part of Midland and that they belong here.

But it can’t be the end of the actions taken by the town and the community. It is part of a solid start that's been made, that needs to continue to be backed by actions. There’s a list of ones I can think of off the top of my head, that’d I’d love to see happen in Midland, once safely possible.

- LGBTQ story time at the library.

- Continued acceptance and diversity training for local businesses and organizations, including the town, hospital and the police.

- More LGBTQ resources and training at the high schools and elementary schools.

- If there aren’t any already, gender neutral washrooms at the town hall, and when possible on municipal forms, places to indicate 'Chosen Name' and 'Legal Name' separately, along with pronouns.

- Having a pride festival once safely possible.

- Showcasing the LGBTQ history of the area. We are a history rich place and there is LGBTQ history here.

And I'm not just preaching without doing. I have been involved in LGBTQ organizing in Midland in the past and I want to continue to do so. I am part of this community and I want to keep paving the way for the other LGBTQ people growing up here and living here.

Sincerely,

Sebastian McGaughey

A Proud Midlander