'They're not alone': As Pride month winds down in Sask., advocates say helping LGBTQ+ youth is critical

As Pride month comes to a close, some say educating people on the LGTBTQ+ community at a young age is important.

Emily Coates is a clinical social worker with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and says learning about Pride can help youth understand the meaning behind rainbows and other symbolism they might see during Pride month.

“It does help for young people to hear themselves and see themselves represented in their education,” Coates said.

Coates says having teachers or educators who don’t talk about Pride can make students feel like their school isn’t safe.

“Talking about these things means that you can be one of the adults that young people trust to come and talk to.”

Coates says students notice when teachers use correct names and pronouns and can tell the difference between someone who is trying and someone who never does.

“Even if they (students) never attend their schools LGTBTQ+ clubs, just the fact that is exists in their school is something that makes them feel more comfortable.”

Lyra Evans is a trustee in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and also a transgender woman. She says there were no conversations about what being LGTBTQ+ meant growing up so she didn’t have the proper language to express herself when she realized she was transgender.

“It’s really important to give people that language to give people the understanding and to know that they’re not alone, there’s shared experiences among other people they can talk about,” Evans said.

She says the lack of language can leave people not understanding the feelings they’re having and the inability to talk about it can lead to shame.

“If nobody is willing to talk about it, if nobody is willing to have those conversations, anyone who feels they might be LGBTQ will feel a great deal of shame and unwilling to address that in a healthy way.”

High rates of addictions and mental health issues within the LGBTQ+ community is tied to societal perceptions of the community and shame associated with it, according to Evans.

Evans says the best way to start the conversation with children is to discuss diverse families as not all families look the same and that it’s normal.

Coates also adds that it’s important for all people to be educated about the LGBTQ+ community and Pride regardless of their sexuality to create more acceptance and compassion.