A few weeks ago I had seen a post on Facebook from a Mississauga based page that simply asked, “What do you think about Mississauga hosting more Pride and LGBTQA+ events?” Without a second thought I decided to comment on the post that yes, Mississauga should have more events for people who live in Mississauga and maybe, for whatever reason(s), cannot travel all the way to Toronto to attend events. In less than a few second, my comment had gotten replies and at first, I was hoping to see some agreements and positive responses but as far as the Internet goes, it was anything but. Reply after reply of, “we don’t want gays here,” “we need to be spending money on security and not stupid Pride events,” and, “the gays have Toronto, leave Mississauga alone”. Was I shocked? Somewhat. Was I angered and frustrated and sad? Of course I was. All of the negative responses on that post made me further think about the lack of safe spaces for those of the LGBTQA+ community, especially in cities that are basically, anywhere but downtown Toronto. So, the answer to why we need more safe spaces was answered by a couple of negative and nasty replies left by uneducated, unsupportive, and homophobic adults on a Facebook post.
A lot of the ‘safe spaces’ that are available now to LGBTQA+ people are usually set in bars or clubs and are, if not always, takes place in the evening and/or night. Even when I was away at University, Pride meetings were held at night on campus and most of the events and outings that the Pride group would host for its members took place in the evening/night. With that being said, there’s still a lot more to say about where the event is hosted and why it’s usually hosted at such late hours. These places are usually stigmatized as spaces that project the idea of hooking up, a gateway for dating, oversexualization of LGBTQA+ people (which can be found in any aspect of societies portrayal of the LGBTQA+ community), and the possibility of intoxication and intoxicated people.
Sure, these are great places for people who enjoy going to bars and clubs at night, great for people who are looking to date or hookup, and overall great for those who can drink and feel comfortable around other people who are drinking as well. Keeping in mind however the part of the population that are underage LGBTQA+ people, these sort of ‘safe spaces’ are unreachable, unappealing and may not pose as the safest place to meet and feel comfortable as a part of the community.
Teens who are LGBTQA+ have a lot of cons for such spaces to host these events. They may have curfews, late classes, part-time jobs that could be evenings and nights, teens that aren’t of legal age that can go to bars/clubs/can drink. They may not have transportation back and forth to such places and if they need an adult to drive them, they may not feel safe with that adult to let them know where they want to go (they may not be out to that parent/guardian/friend/adult figure in their life). They might have a disability in which it’s not as easy for them to get around, they’re on medication or, they may have a mental illness that makes it hard for them to go out and enjoy themselves in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.
Just as much as teens are affected from all of these things, this also affects some adults as well. The same reasons can apply for adults as it does for teens who don’t feel comfortable at such places. Adults may not be interested in dating/hookups/sexual relationships (they may identify as Asexual or are simply uninterested) and may feel uncomfortable in places that promote and push the desire of sex. Perhaps these adults (and teens as well) are simply looking for platonic, mutual friendships over relationships (in the romantic sense). These adults may possibly have a past of alcohol/drug/sexual/emotional/physical/mental abuse or stigmatization and might not feel safe in such places where it’s easy for this possibility to become a reality. Lastly, they might only feel comfortable or have the availability to only attend events during the day instead of in the evenings and late at night.
While age, sexual identity, gender identity, race, and religion pose as important reasons for such safe spaces to be created for those who cannot attend late night events, the issue of location is what sparked the original train of thought on this issue. Cities like Toronto may host events all the time (not always held late in the day), promote inclusiveness and have a clean, reputable history of safety and security; neighboring cities barely have such resources. Allowing cities like Mississauga to have more Pride/LGBTQA+ events will help those who may be having issues with support, transportation, acceptance, and their city not hosting events at all.
While demographically it may seem that everyone who identifies as LGBTQA+ only lives in the city of Toronto, Pride events/groups/communities/sponsors/political figures need to realize that neighboring cities and towns have populations who identify as well and are seeing little to no support in their own city/town. Mississauga had one event this year that I was aware of and it was part of this year’s Pride events. And while Mississauga is not that far from Toronto, it seems as if it’s a million miles away. The lack of support and understanding, the constant fear of sharing a city with those who are not heterosexual and those who demand to be seen, spoken and heard is startling when Toronto seems much more accepting, willing to put the time and effort to host events and have an inclusive attitude catered and centered for all, allies or identifiers. Safe spaces should be all inclusive, for anyone who has yet to find a safe space, in any city, in any part of the world, whether all citizens respect that decision or not. As far as nasty Facebook comments can go, my Pride for the city I live in will always overshadow the ones who decide to hate instead of educate, feel fear more than they feel pride and acceptance and support for those around them who need it the most.