It’s been a struggle from the beginning for the Gay Straight Alliance at Steinbach Regional Secondary School (SRSS). Since it was first established in 2013, the club has been criticized, rejected and even disbanded at times; but that was then and this is now.
GSA advocates say the days of torn up posters have finally come to an end and the topic of LGBT in school hallways has evolved into a more accepting conversation compared to when the club first began.
These successes are the ripples created after a stone was thrown by Evan Wiens into the waters of southern Manitoba’s ‘bible belt’ three years ago.
Wiens, an SRSS student at the time, began the club in order to create a safe environment for individuals of all sexual orientations to come together.
Over the years, the Steinbach-based, adult LGBT group has taken many steps in the fight for equal LGBT rights in the Hanover School Division.
Some of the small acts include meeting with the school board on two occasions and meeting with other GSA groups in the community such as Neighbours for Community.
The Alliance has also held fundraisers in previous years for South East Helping Hands.
These small steps seem to be working as LGBT has become a more welcomed term in both SRSS and the city of Steinbach. Although, the baby steps taken were incremental for a reason.
In communities like Steinbach, new ideas must be introduced in a slow and careful manner because there is strong resistance to this kind of cultural shift, says Abigail Martens, a GSA member since November 2015.
Martens, and other GSA members, have serious concerns about the upcoming LGBT pride parade slated for Steinbach on Sat. Jul. 9. She says the GSA at SRSS, as well as other Steinbach GSA groups, were not consulted when the event was being planned.
The primary issue Martens and others have with the parade is simply that it is too soon. Members are concerned the parade could set them back, compromising the progress they have made so far.
They fear the amount of controversy surrounding the parade may also end in an argument that will only make the public more resistant to the cause.
Members acknowledge this kind of event was the logical next step in their fight, but they say there needed to be a greater amount of time before the parade came to Steinbach.
Supporters of having a pride parade in Steinbach often refer to a similar event in Winnipeg that has been mostly successful. They wonder why people think it won’t be the same in Steinbach.
GSA members respond to this notion by pointing out the major difference in the size of each city.
“Winnipeg is much larger and there are more routes to ‘ignore’ the parade,” says one GSA member. “In Steinbach, it is prominent in everyone’s lives and not many will be able to avoid it.”
Still, those members endorsing the parade have publicly supported those members who plan on attending.
“Our GSA members are at various stages of comfort with the speed that events are unfolding and I want to be sensitive to each one of them as young adults, grappling with the many issues at hand,” an advocate of GSA stated.
Many GSA members are cautious; they hope the LGBT pride parade does not set them back after three years of hard work.