I grew up in Steinbach. It is where I spent most of my working life and raised my own family. Although I no longer live there I still have many friends in Steinbach. So the recent negative media coverage characterizing Steinbach people as ‘narrow-minded’ when it comes to equality for members of the LGBTQ community doesn’t seem entirely fair.
Two hundred people showed up for the vigil Steinbach held for the victims of the Orlando massacre. CBC news reported three hundred came to the Winnipeg vigil at the legislature. Given the population differences Steinbach citizens actually demonstrated greater support.
The Carillon, the local paper, has consistently published editorials that support the LGBTQ community and while some letters to the editor express moral and religious outrage about LGBTQ issues, others convey support, among them letters from Steinbach lawyers, pastors and professors at a nearby Christian college.
The Hanover school board has not responded in a supportive way to petitions to make local schools safer places for LGBTQ teens and children from families with same sex parents. But it is important to note there are two school board members who have been publicly empathetic and supportive. That can’t be easy for them and their courage deserves recognition.
I taught at the SRSS over a decade ago but already then there were teachers openly accepting of LGBTQ community members and quick to shut down any derisive comments students made about them. A Steinbach parent told me recently that division policy aside there are many educators in area schools who are willing to listen to LGBTQ kids in a caring and confidential way. Thanks to the efforts of Evan Wiens the SRSS does have a Gay Straight Alliance group. In an interview with CBC, Wiens stated that while he experienced a negative backlash because of his public stance, it was outweighed by the positive support he received from many in the community.
I have plenty of Facebook friends from Steinbach, former students and colleagues, fellow church members and friends, and the majority of them publish or share posts that show support of the LGBTQ community.
While Steinbach city council will not officially endorse the Pride Parade one councilor has done so personally, and was even willing to give a statement to Macleans magazine regarding her position.
People may not be aware there is an organized group in Steinbach called Neighbours for Community whose stated goal on their website is to seek better understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people. One of their projects was bringing a drama to Steinbach about a father learning to be accepting of his son who was gay.
There could be thousands from outside Steinbach coming to march in the Pride Parade tomorrow to show support. But support is what they should offer, support for those in the area who have already been doing a great deal to make Steinbach and surrounding communities more accepting of LGBTQ neighbors. Steinbach has many caring citizens who have been proactively trying to bring about change and will continue their efforts long after the masses from other places have marched away. These local people’s contributions should be recognized, commended, appreciated, and supported, not overshadowed or compromised by the participation of those from outside the community or forgotten in sweeping condemnations of ‘narrow minded’ Steinbach.
I will be at the parade on Saturday as a person who still thinks of Steinbach as her hometown and to show support to the people living there who should be proud of their efforts to make their community a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.
Note: This was my column in this week’s Carillon. I am happy to see that the final line up of speakers at City Hall for the parade includes a good representation of local people so they will have a clear voice.