Rainbow Goes to Churchill

On an unseasonably warm Friday March 29th, Dene (he/they), our School Equity Inclusion Coordinator, and Tia (they/them), our Youth Support Counsellor, boarded a plane to still-snowy Churchill, Manitoba. Upon arrival they were greeted warmly by local residents who were thrilled to have Rainbow Resource Centre so far north to work with their community.

Dene and Tia were scheduled to present workshops on Monday April 1 and Tuesday April 2, but due to flight schedules had to arrive a few days early. Those days were well-spent. “We used [this time] to connect with locals that we met at the restaurants, hotel, stores, and just walking around,” Dene says. These on-the-spot connections sparked in-depth discussions. Tia adds, “We told everyone we interacted with why we were in Churchill and had lots of questions and great conversations discussing why 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion is important.”

When Monday rolled around and Dene and Tia set out to do their workshops, they found an audience eager to absorb this information and put it into practice. Monday’s workshop was with Duke of Marlborough School and Tuesday’s was with Churchill Hospital—both workshops were filled with staff eager to absorb this information and then put it into practice to make their spaces safer for 2SLGBTQ+ student and clients, as well as everyone accessing their facilities.

In speaking of why this education work is important, especially in northern communities, both Dene and Tia spoke of the challenges of being 2SLGBTQ+ and living in a small, remote, northern community. “Everyone knows everyone,” Tia says, “which can make it difficult to explore your identity.” Dene echoes this thought, “When your community is under 800 people, the majority of whom are family that have been born and raised there…everyone knows everyone.”

“2SLGBTQ+ folks already feel isolated and alone a lot of the time, but then to have a lack of resources and also be physically isolated and alone intensifies the situation,” Dene says. “2SLGBTQ+ folks in these communities look to belong and find others like them so they might end up going to online communities instead. This can lead to further isolation.”

The staff of Duke of Marlborough School and Churchill Hospital are now hard at work implementing what they’ve learned from Rainbow Resource Centre’s team, with the hope of reducing isolation, providing resources and support, and making sure 2SLGBTQ+ people know they belong in their community and are a part of life in Churchill.

While Dene and Tia weren’t able to solve the problem of isolation on their brief trip to Churchill, they were able to bring vibrant ray of rainbow-hued sunshine to a community that eagerly welcomed them with open arms. When asked if they’d like to return to Churchill and continue working with the community, both Dene and Tia gave a very eager “Yes!”