July 19th, 2024

2SLGTBQIA+ community offering safe space for supporters as protests planned

By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 21, 2023.

From left, EMJ Neigum-Witzke, Kim Large and Ceilidh Joy were all organizers of the 2SLGTBQIA+ countermarch in September. Today, there will be a gathering of support for the community at a safe space.--NEWS PHOTO SAMANTHA JOHNSON

reporter@medicinehatnews.com

The 2SLGTBQIA+ community is having a gathering of support today to match the so-called ‘1 Million march.’

Last month, the community initially gathered outside city hall on Sept. 20 before walking across the street to Veterans Park as they had rented the bandstand.

“Our original focus was so that the local 2SLGTBQIA+ kids would see that there were people who cared and there were people there,” said Kim Large, one of three organizers of the countermarch who talked with the News.

Approximately 150 people showed up in support of the 2SLGTBQIA+ community for the first countermarch.

“Our group did a good job of being peaceful and supporting our people. Doing what we were there to do and not having big interactions and altercations with the other group,” explained Large.

The same was not always true of those on the other side, they said, when the two groups passed each other in Veterans Park. While there wasn’t any physicality or violence, there was some verbal abuse directed toward the 2SLGTBQIA+ supporters.

Ceilidh Joy added the ‘Million’ marchers were presented with opportunities to explain what their slogans meant but the statements were unclear.

EMJ Neigum-Witzke stated, “There was no consistency in their reasoning or in the information they were giving. It was very much just verbal ignorance towards us with no clear statement.”

This month, the organizers have decided to do something different for the community to deflect away from the reactive nature of protests.

“We are trying to bring it into more of a community gathering space for support rather than focusing on trying to argue or even interact with them,” stated Joy. “There is no point in going to something if you aren’t going to have a healthy dialogue created within those two groups. There is much more of a focus on how we can do it so the community can still get together or create a space where we are able to educate people or talk about how we and the community want to deal with things and the hatred.”

Today will be about gathering the community together, support, offering resources and creating a healthier safe space. “Many of them don’t feel seen or heard so we want to say, ‘we see you, we hear you,'” said Neigum-Witzke.

Within the past year, the community is starting to feel more supported than in the past. Neigum-Witzke said, “The feedback we’ve been getting is fantastic. Whether it’s school supports or other professional supports in the community, we’ve really seen our humans band together and it’s quite beautiful.”

Joy added that much growth has been seen this year. With organizations such as Medicine Hat Public Library and Bridges Family Programs providing services, there has been great opportunity for the community to work together.

“Professional support is coming forward to say I’m a safe space and this is what we specifically do for the community to ensure that we are a safe space,” added Neigum-Witzke. “Our counsellors are safe and we are offering low- to no-cost counselling for certain groups. It’s seeing that progress in action and that action is huge. The talk has been really great in the past 10 to 15 years, but in the past 12 months there has been action and there’s been pen to paper and doing things, which is fantastic.”

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