Laura Stovel and Martin Ralph.

Creating Safe Spaces in Revelstoke

Developments over past year have improved situation for LGBTQ individuals in Revelstoke.

Martin Ralph knows the problems that can come with being openly gay in Revelstoke. He’s felt nervous walking down the street, counselled young people who were tormented for their sexual identities, and even been threatened himself — notably last year when the Revelstoke Theatre Company performed Dog Sees God, a controversial play that dealt with many teen issues, including sexual identity.

“They were very bigoted,” said Ralph. “I didn’t feel that threatened, but I made it clear that if this person was serious, I could take care of myself.”

At the same time, he’s noticed a wholesale change in attitudes in Revelstoke over the past year, attributed to things like the performance of Dog Sees God and the advent of Safe Spaces of Revelstoke, a society that aims to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexul, transgender and queer) community and allow them to live their lives as they are openly and without fear.

“Invisibility is not the same as integration and acceptance. Visibility is about living OUT,  in the open. Free to express ourselves safe from fear,  discrimination, judgment and violence,” wrote Samantha Roberts in this paper last year. It’s a statement the society has adopted on its website, safespacesrevelstoke.org.

“Our goal is to celebrate everyone and the lives we all live,” said Ralph.

Revelstoke has long been home to a small LGBTQ community. Many years ago, they had informal social gatherings and would attend events outside the community together. For the most part, they lived their lives quietly. You would have to be brave to walk down the street holding hands with your partner.

“I came from the city, so the atmosphere was quite difficult for me to adjust to,” said Ralph. “I’ve had partners here and how I lived here was way less comfortable than in the city.”

He said there’s “a history of gay bashings” here, and he’s helped people who have been harassed and beaten. “There’s been a couple of severe incidents in Revelstoke. It’s not like it doesn’t exist.”

It took Laura Stovel to spur the community to get organized. She was contracted by Okanagan College to run an EmbraceBC program designed to promote diversity in the community. At around the same time, Ryan Clayton, from Salmon Arm, was set to come to Revelstoke Secondary School to give a talk about growing up gay in a small community. The suggestion came to host a community event. Stovel wanted someone from the LGTBQ community to be part of it, so she approached Ralph.

Clayton spoke in April and Dog Sees God was performed in May to big crowds. In June, Roberts hosted an informal social gathering at Castle Joe Books.

“When we started getting organized, so many people were supportive,” said Stovel. “The high school was absolutely ready for something, and has been incredibly supportive and open and active.”

The Safe Spaces Revelstoke Society was started in 2014 and is chaired by Ralph. The board consists of about a dozen people, the majority of whom are allies of the LGBTQ community. They have a Facebook page and a new website. The board meets monthly.

“Lots of people were interested. Some were parents hoping for a better environment for their children,” said Stovel.

Revelstoke Secondary School is where a lot of the “consciousness raising” – to steal a term used by Ralph – has been taking place.

“What I’m observing is it’s the high school students who are finding the courage to come out,” said Stovel.

Safe Spaces has reached out to businesses, giving out pride stickers they can put in their door to indicate their LGBTQ-friendly. Jill Zacharias, Revelstoke’s Social Development Coordinator, created an information sheet for healthcare workers on how to care for transgender patients.

They want to take part in the Canada Day parade this year and host a Pride event in the future.

“I  think it’s a step at a time. You don’t just get in someone’s face. I think it’s about being present being who you are, being an example, but it’s also about standing up for what is right,” said Ralph. “I think what we’ll do in the future is stay engaged, stay visible and stay supportive and helpful.”

 

Just Posted

Applications for 2019 Revelstoke Community Foundation about to close

This year there is more than $65,000 to distribute

‘This province has never ending secrets’: Canada jays in Revelstoke largely unstudied

John Woods spoke at the last CRED Talk on Canada’s unofficial national bird

Readers weigh in: Should shock collars on dogs be banned?

We asked and you had a lot to say. Here’s some of what

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

Shuswap facility adds 60 long-term care beds

Mount Ida Mews hosts grand opening of second phase in Salmon Arm

Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

Site has had no movement for the past eight days

No gas in Okanagan town as lone station closed for renovations

Falkland’s Petro Canada will remain closed for renovations until March 1

Most Read