Steinbach prejudice and Pride among key moments of 2016 for Manitoba LGBT community

Three simple words tweeted out by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Manitoba's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community sum up what got them through the good, the bad and the ugly in 2016: "#loveislove."

Tears, tragedies of 2016 serve to strengthen 'marginalized and voiceless' in 2017

Thousands of people took part in Steinbach's first Pride parade in July, but many local public officials, including the mayor, MLA and MP, did not attend. (CBC)

Three simple words tweeted out by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Manitoba's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community sum up what got them through the good, the bad and the ugly in 2016:


Mike Tutthill is the executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre.
"In some ways, it's been a very difficult year," said Mike Tutthill, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre in Winnipeg. "[So] it was a strong message to be sent, a message that LGBT folks are protected and share rights and should be celebrated in Canada."

Tutthill joined the CBC for a look back at the year that was and the events that defined it for Manitoba's LGBT community.

1st Pride

There was conflict: last May, Steinbach mother Michelle McHale asked public school officials to educate students about same-sex parenting. They refused.

There was celebration: as a result of that public dispute, Manitoba LGBT communities united to support the Steinbach Pride March for Equality.

Local politicians refused to attend the event, but one federal politician gave it a very public seal of approval.

"My best wishes and congratulations to everyone at Steinbach Pride today," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.

Tragedy and triumph

There was also tragedy: in Orlando, Fla., last June, a gunman opened fire in a crowded gay nightclub, killing 49 people.

"It was hard. Folks in our community were hurting," Tutthill said. "People were really impacted by those events."

Again, however, a tender triumph prevailed, he said.

The local LGBT community rallied together and grieved together.

They also reached out to local Muslims, who also felt the hatred of the Florida shooter, a self-declared supporter of ISIS, militants fighting to establish an Islamist state.

Folks in our community were hurting- Mike Tutthill

"Following that event, Pride Winnipeg and the Rainbow Resource Centre issued statements, and within both of our statements, called for an end to Islamaphobia," Tutthill said. "And folks within the Muslim community were quite moved by that."

That broadening groundswell of cross-cultural supports will help to define the year 2017, he said.

Rainbow Resource is now reaching out to LGBT refugees and newcomers here in Manitoba.

"Refugee claimants within our community often face homophobia from other refugees, unfortunately," Tutthill said. "So as a centre we're trying to figure out how is it that we can best support them, while at the same time trying to do some work to educate folks within the refugee system and within settlement services around the specific needs."

Serving seniors

But if 2017 is anything, it will be the year the LGBT community secures the future for the people who secured the present.

Aging members of the community, the groundbreakers who fought for the rights LGBT people now enjoy, are themselves at risk of losing those rights, Tutthill said.

Mike Tutthill, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, talks to the CBC's Marcy Markusa. (CBC)
"We know that when lots of folks go into long-term care and move into seniors housing, um, that they're going back into the closet," he said. "And we really recognize these folks are pioneers in our community, and we don't want to see that happen for them."

A seniors housing committee will research the needs of older members of the LGBT community, draw up a prototype of what their housing should look like and present it to potential funders to lay the foundation.

Overall, the dark days of 2016 were transformed to light and solidified the community as they head into the new year.

"We have a long history of standing up and taking our place when people have been marginalized and voiceless within our community," Tutthill said.

"There's a movement happening around … recognition of LGBT folks in this province, so I'm feeling pretty optimistic looking forward."