Anonymous volunteers paint a rainbow crosswalk in chalk on Fourth Avenue beside Port Alberni City Hall, late Sunday night. PHOTO COURTESY CHRIS ALEMANY

LETTER: Rainbow crosswalks aren’t just colourful paint

To the Editor,

Port Alberni has a very temporary chalk rainbow crosswalk, a tribute to the 49 LGBTQ+ people who were massacred in Orlando, Florida on June 12 last year. Having members of our “family” targeted because of who they love broke the hearts of every LGBTQ person I know and a whole pile of allies.

I know the murders in the Pulse Nightclub impacted LGBTQ+ in Port Alberni, especially our youth. Add the erosion of LGBT+ rights in the US, since the change in government, the fear I know some feel is real (what if it starts happening here?). Thus the significance of rainbow crosswalks and what they mean to the LGBTQ community is very much alive.

They promote awareness and speak to the acceptance and welcoming of LGBTQ in any city. As Gilbert Baker (the creator of the rainbow flag, 1978, who died this year) said “whenever a rainbow flag is flown or displayed it is an action of hope and freedom”. Many still need us to take that action.

LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable. They have a suicide risk of 14 times that of of other youth. They account for 40 percent of youth homelessness in Canada.

In recent polling of school aged children, only nine percent thought a pupil or staff member would feel safe telling people they were LGBTQ in school. More than half said they have witnessed homophobic bullying in school while more than 75 percent of staff said they have witnessed it.

Toronto and Saskatoon have opened LGBTQ specific shelters because the need is so great.

Personally, I know that many LGBTQ youth, especially from smaller communities, end up on the streets of Victoria and Vancouver.

Thus I’ve made it a personal mission to help prevent Port Alberni youth feeling they have to leave our city in order to be accepted.

It is primarily these things that got me involved in Pride activities in Port Alberni and why I am in support of rainbow crosswalks. It is action towards embracing our diversity. It says we strive to be a safe place for LGBTQ, that within our city there are people who accept you, that you have our love and our respect.

Pride is July 22–23 in Port Alberni this year. The theme is “Love is Love”. Come share some.

Shelley Shenton,

Port Alberni