The first step has been made in developing a physical place where members of P.E.I’s LGBTQ+ community can connect with each other.
About 90 people gathered at the Haviland Club Saturday for “Linking Together,” a day-long event which included discussions about creating a facility in P.E.I. for the LGBTQ+ community.
Hannah Gehrels, coordinator of Linking Together, said such a place would help the sense of belonging for community members.
“When people can get together with similar communities it reduces a lot of the isolation and the isolation is really what leads to the feelings of shame,” she said.
The day’s events were organized by PEERS Alliance and a newly-formed group also called Linking Together.
Linking Together started when a group of 12 community members gathered in October to discuss the possibility of a LGBTQ+ location.
Other provinces in Canada have similar places such as bars and community centres.
The type of venue and whether it would be a new facility was one of Saturday’s topics of discussion.
Saturday’s event was well-attended. Registration for the day had a maximum of about 90 people and it quickly filled up.
“It really shows the need and desire,” said Gehrels.
Cybelle Rieber, executive director for PEERS Alliance, said people have been talking about a LGBTQ+ centre on P.E.I. for a long time.
She said the time is right to bring it to the forefront.
“Right now, federally, there’s a lot of conversations happening about how can we have dedicated funding to set up spaces such as this in recognition of the need,” she said. “So the time is right to bring people together to have a conversation.”
The “Linking Together” day mimicked what a community centre could be like.
It included workshops and information sessions such as a trans information panel, a drag make-up tutorial, P.E.I’s LGBTQ+ history, knitting, understanding LGBTQ+ loved ones and more. There was also an activity area for children.
The Island’s first HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C dried blood spot testing was also featured during the event. It was held in partnership with Health P.E.I.
“Testing on P.E.I. is sometimes challenging particularly for our communities so we really wanted to normalize the idea of testing on a regular basis,” said Rieber.