Montreal

Classroom workshops offer support to LGBTQ youth in rural Quebec

A not-for-profit based in Montreal is visiting rural communities to show youth that they're not alone.

Not-for-profit based in Montreal is visiting rural communities to show youth that they're not alone

GRIS-Montréal organizes workshops to help break LGBTQ stereotypes in rural communities. (Submitted by GRIS-Montréal)

Montreal is known for its vibrant rainbow community. But, in some smaller towns, to be LGBTQ is to feel isolated in the place you call home.

Andrei Pascu is the Vice-President of GRIS-Montréal, a not-for-profit working to support LGBTQ youth in rural communities.

He told CBC Montreal's Let's Go host Sabrina Marandola that lack of queer representation in small towns can make it easy to feel alone. This isolation is only compounded by bullying or passively homophobic remarks.

These feelings can keep young people from coming out of the closet, or force them to move to a bigger city to be themselves.

LISTEN | Andrei Pascu, Vice-President of GRIS Montreal, wants LGBTQ youth to feel confident in who they are.

This is why GRIS-Montréal regularly visits rural high schools. The goal, explained Pascu, is to show LGBTQ students that there are others going through the same thing. And, through honest conversations, to fight against anti-LGBTQ attitudes in these communities.

Their workshops focus on building empathy.

"We're not there to talk about statistics," said Pascu. "We're there to say what we lived as individuals who are part of the community."

He's confident the workshops are having an impact. GRIS-Montréal collects surveys tracking rural attitudes toward people who are LGBTQ. So far, he said, things are moving in the right direction.

Andrei Pascu is the vice-president of GRIS-Montréal. He says their workshops have a positive effect on rural communities. (Submitted by Andrei Pascu)

Pascu said he can see the changes happen in the classroom, right before his eyes.

"From the moment you walk in, to the moment you walk out, you can see a positive change in the perception of students."

Despite the pandemic, GRIS-Montréal has met with 18,000 people in the past year. Usually they can reach up to 30,000 people per year.

For Pascu, fighting anti-LGBTQ attitudes means fighting against the unknown. He doesn't think people are inherently homophobic. Rather, they simply haven't met individuals who are openly part of the community, which can help break stereotypes they may hold.

Pascu hopes that the conversations he has with students in the classroom will make their way back into their homes. As students challenge themselves to see things differently, there's a chance they can influence their parents to do the same.

"I do believe that students can change their environment, whether at home or at school," he said.

GRIS-Montréal offers a variety of resources for schools that hope to better support their LGBTQ students. It is also poised to get back to conducting workshops in the fall; they're currently accepting invitations to speak at schools.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Dicaire

CBC editorial assistant

Eric Dicaire is a CBC Montreal editorial assistant working from home during the pandemic.

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