Timmins Pride working to make city more 2SLGBTQ+ friendly
Pride Month ends Thursday and while Timmins Pride wasn't able to hold a celebratory event, due to a lack of volunteers, president Matthieu Villeneuve said things are looking brighter.
He said the group is seeing more volunteer interest now, and will even hire a staff coordinator in the coming weeks to help plan events and begin addressing systemic gaps in services for local 2SLGBTQ+ people.
"There is a lack in mental health services, trans support, either with mental health support, medical support or even transitioning, in-school support, as well," said Villeneuve,
His comment echoes the findings of its recent needs assessment study.
"We're always having to forward everybody down south for services."
Timmins Pride published a 'Needs Assessment' report earlier this year, highlighting the programs and services that the 2SLGBTQ+ community wish existed in the north, and the quality of existing services.
Just over a third of respondents reported having to travel outside of the region to get access to services.
Villeneuve said supports for transgender people, particularly gender reassignment surgery, are either non-existent or very difficult to find in the north, and often result in searching for help in southern Ontario.
"Which is such a horrible thing to do, we should really be able to do that up here," Villeneuve said.
Most people in Timmins' 2SLGBTQ+ community reported negative or lacklustre experiences with existing services in the city.
For mental health services, people reported feeling uncomfortable being completely vulnerable with staff, and wished service providers were more open and supportive.
The study calls for local mental health services to be better trained to deal with 2SLGBTQ+ people, and for all local organizations to review policies to best serve the community.
The Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane-Timiskaming branch's communications specialist Krista Green said staff undergo sensitivity training and are encouraged to seek further education.
"We've ensured that all of our staff have LGBT2SQ cultural safety awareness training, and we've made sure we are able to provide that equitable, accessible care," said Green.
"Anything that's going to help with cultural safety, cultural awareness, within our agency, is strongly encouraged."
Green said the 2SLGBTQ+ community is more likely to experience anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias and addictions issues, and that the CMHA aims to be sensitive in addressing those challenges.
Some things Villeneuve would like to see come to Timmins are more inclusive spaces and a transgender medical facility.
His vision is to one day establish a 2SLGBTQ+ community centre, or hub that can offer all of the services that have been lacking in the city.
Villeneuve said the community simply wants to feel welcome and supported in the north, and that most northerners appear to empathize with that.
"A lot of the general community understands that there's a need for it, compared to where it is in larger centres, but when it comes to getting the information out, that's where Pride comes in," he said.
Most of the local 2SLGBTQ+ feel disconnected from each other, according to Timmins Pride's study, and Villeneuve said an annual Pride event plays a large role in building that community spirit.
He said he hopes reviving the event in Timmins for the first time in years this September will help the community feel they are seen and heard.