Guest Post by Jesse Lz
I grew up in Airdrie AB, fortunate enough to experience the full Fuzzy Pickles Playschool-RJ-Meadowbrook-BCHS journey. I was always interested in politics and was lucky to have a variety of clubs and resources at my disposal, including Airdrie’s former youth council “Hyjinx” and the leadership class at BCHS.
My experience growing up in Airdrie as a mixed race gay kid was one I’d wish for every young LGBTQ2S+ Albertan, sadly I realize my positive experience was a bit of an anomaly. The first people I came out to were my friends in grade 10. I think back to that time a lot. I remember how confused I felt. I was struggling to balance faith, and expectations of my future with how I felt, and when you add in a healthy dose of hormones it was a LOT for a 15 yr old to deal with on his own.
There were a lot of long three-way calls and frantic MSN IMing back then, and I am still grateful I had supportive friends to turn to, which isn’t the case for many young LGBTQ2S+ kids. A GSA would have been an incredible resource at that time if only to show me that this was not some shameful fate I had somehow brought down on myself and that everything was OK. A silly thought looking back, but a very real fear in a confused young man’s eyes.
When I graduated in 2008, I moved to Ottawa to pursue a degree in political science. I went on to intern with Liberal MP Joyce Murray throughout my last few years of university, and then to work for Kathleen Wynne in Toronto where I now live, consulting with progressive politicians, and pursuing my own activist projects.
It was a privilege to work for Canada’s first openly lesbian premier, as a young gay man marching with her down Yonge St. in Toronto I felt a sense of pride and belonging, humbled by the importance of that moment. Unfortunately, as many of you know KW lost her re-election bid to Doug Ford, a man with very different priorities.
Right now Albertans are facing a similar situation. A man who has surrounded himself with a cast of characters that would give 80’s movie villain the creeps, is now leading the province.
There are going to be cuts and hard struggles ahead. It’s going to feel overwhelming and like there is a mountain ahead of you that you need to overcome, and the truth is there is. However, that’s just one part of the picture.
Under Notley, the progressive movement has flourished in Alberta. New voices have joined the provincial conversation in a way we haven’t seen before. Marginalized groups have begun to push back hard against bad policy and it’s having an effect. Progressives are gathering together, discussing the future they want to see, figuring out how to support each other and they’re doing it unapologetically in a province that just a few years ago was considered an invulnerable conservative stronghold.
The only thing standing in the way of these folks with regressive ideas is you. The next four years are going to require action, organization, cooperation between like-minded groups and a whole lot of deep breathing exercises if we’re going to effectively champion a more progressive, modern Alberta.
My best advice is to take what you’re feeling right now, turn it into fuel and put that energy into your community. Mr. Rogers passed on his mothers sage advice to always “look for the helpers” in troubling times, take it a step further and when you see someone working to make Alberta a better place, reach out and ask how you can help.
We also need to be honest with ourselves. Right now there is an emboldened section of the population that doesn’t wish our community well. These people are going to try to go after GSAs and attempt to make life harder for the youngest members of our LGBTQ2S+ family. We will not let them.