P.E.I. premier offers hope to gay community
Wade MacLauchlan encourages participants at Gender Sexuality Alliance conference to 'be authentic'
Premier Wade MacLauchlan left participants at a Gender Sexuality Alliance conference Saturday at UPEI with a message of hope.
MacLauchlan, Canada's first openly gay male premier, received big applause when he invited them to celebrate who they are.
"The most important contributor to real change, is to be authentic, to be proud, to be confident and to move forward," he said.
His speech made an impression on Tyler Murnaghan of Pride PEI.
"It means a lot," he said. "I was in high school only four, five years ago, there was no gay premier, there was no Pride PEI, there was nothing."
Elyse Cottrell of the UPEI Rainbow Alliance said MacLauchlan is a good role model.
To have somebody in that position, it gives people hope and a sense they can accomplish important and really good things in life.- Elyse Cottrell
"To see somebody who has been the president of the university and now the premier of the province, who is in a relationship with his partner, to have somebody in that position, it gives people hope and a sense they can accomplish important and really good things in life," she said.
More than 100 people registered to participate in the Gender Sexuality Alliance conference, about double the turnout from last year.
That suggests a culture shift is underway, Murnaghan said, meaning greater visibility, and more acceptance for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ.
"It feels good to know we are on the right track," he said. "We don't get a lot of feedback in the non-profit sector so it's nice to know that we are going in the right direction and people are approving of what we are doing."
A lot has changed
A lot has changed since he graduated from UPEI 40 years ago, MacLauchlan said, including the development and growth of Gender Sexuality Alliances across the province and throughout the country.
His government recently announced changes to the Vital Statistics Act that will make it easier for Islanders to change their gender on official documents.
But organizers of the conference say there's still work to be done. They plan to focus on making sure every high school in the province has a Gender Sexuality Alliance group. Then, they'll work to establish them in Intermediate schools, as well.
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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown