A plan for a rainbow-coloured crosswalk to reflect the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) community has spurred the formation of a new group.
When city council voted unanimously in July to repaint one of the city’s crosswalks in response to a letter by local resident Sarah Artis, the decision drew inflammatory remarks on social media.
On top of that, the city received five letters against the proposal.
One letter suggested the crosswalk might not be recognized as a crosswalk, creating a safety issue.
While the majority of online comments supported the venture, the backlash of those opposed led a local gay man, Devin Wall, and a local woman to host a meeting last week, attended by 32 people at Knox United Church.
“We had lesbians, we had gay people, we had transgender people, we had straight people, we had everybody,” said Wall, 27.
Questionnaires were filled out in the expectation of forming an official non-profit society.
Next up is establishing a membership, non-profit proposal and mission statement, said Wall.
“The main thing we want is to be able to provide a safe place for people and to provide education for people by being out in the community and being proactive,” he said.
According to Wall, the angry and discriminatory comments following council’s crosswalk decision came as a shock because he had never had a problem with discrimination growing up in Terrace.
It was a politicizing moment for him when he knew he had to do something.
“I grew up in Terrace and I have never had any issues with being gay bashed or anything else like that and I thought it was non-existent, until the issues came up with the crosswalk,” said Wall.
“I decided that we need to have some kind of a group that can be supportive and help create a more inclusive Terrace.”
Three of those who attended the meeting were city councillors and Wall says they seemed supportive of having a gay pride float in a future Riverboat Days parade.
In fact, according to Wall, even having a support group in Terrace is a first.
Wall also hopes to have the newly-formed group take an active role within the public school system.
“We want to put resources in the school for questioning youth, as well as resources for the parents,” he said.
“Their child may be going through something that they don’t understand and our parents don’t know how to deal with that,” Wall added.
Future plans also include having a barbecue to celebrate the crosswalk once it is painted in.
City officials have chosen to repaint the crosswalk which runs across Eby St. at the “T’ intersection in front of city hall.
It’s a task that will take place in October with other scheduled work and will cost an estimated $2,500. It is going to have perpendicular stripes lined up in the direction that people cross.
The full name of the group is the Terrace LGBTQ and Gay Straight Alliance, and they plan to continue meeting monthly to build their presence.