BlackOUT 2.0 sheds light on challenges facing LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians

Members of the community discuss what it means to be black and LGBTQ in the province.

Young LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians should accept themselves and seek out others who support them, a panel called BlackOUT 2.0 said on Wednesday.

“We need to accept ourselves, more than anything,” said Chris Cochrane, a transgender African-Nova Scotian woman. “We have to make sure we are living and accepting our lives to the fullest so we can help other people.”

Cochrane was one of four panellists who spoke at the Halifax Central Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event was advertised as “an open discussion of what it means to be African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) in 2015.”

Robert Wright, Evelyn White, and Axel Obame joined Cochrane on stage. Rev. Elaine Walcott acted as a moderator. They all spoke about how difficult it is to accept yourself when you can’t find others who are accepting of you.

“It is a dialogue that allows for more people to participate in the conversation. Four chairs, one for each panellist, plus two extra chairs. Any LGBTQ African-Nova Scotian who is a black person can sit in one of the extra chairs at any time and join in the discussion,” said Walcott.

The panel talked about the challenges that young LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians currently face.

“Speaking for the younger generation, one of the challenges is being yourself. Because if your environment is unsure of you, you are going to doubt yourself so much more, and it doesn’t help you in the least,” said Obame.

He said that there is some acceptance in the province, “but on a scale of one to 10, it’s like a 3.5, not like an eight.”

He also spoke about how important it is that young African-Nova Scotian LGBTQ people find an outside source that is accepting of them. “When you find that outside voice, it helps you validate everything you’ve been keeping hidden inside,” said Obame.

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The panel stressed the need for improved and more accessible resources for African-Nova Scotian LGBTQ youth.

Walcott said she is open and available to help anyone in the community who is in need. White also promised her support to younger struggling LGBTQ African-Nova Scotians. “As an elder in this community, I have your back,” said White, “and the only thing you are required to be is yourself.”

The panel was split into two parts. The panellists discussed three questions and a short question and answer period followed.

The three main questions were:

  • What does it mean to you for you to be African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ?
  • What are the challenges of being African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ in 2015?
  • What are the opportunities for moving forward regarding being African-Nova Scotian and LGBTQ?

Each panellist also made a point of mentioning how rarely events like BlackOUT occur.

“We need more opportunities to share this conversation,” said Wright.

The event was presented by NSRAP (Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project) LGTBQ Youth and Elders Project in partnership with the Halifax Central Library as part of African Heritage Month. The Facebook event page said “all LGBTQ community members, friends, and allies are welcome.”

“This is an event of empowerment and validation. It is certainly a rare and treasured opportunity,” said Walcott. “It’s so powerful to have this opportunity so that others will have a sense that they are not alone.”

Pride Week at the University of King’s College celebrates queer students

March 2 – 6, 2015 is King’s Pride Week, featuring engaging events celebrating sexual and gender identity.

Bryson Morris, a third-year student studying the history of science and technology (HOST) and philosophy at the University of King’s College, is the vice president of communications for the King’s P.R.I.D.E. Society. Morris has been at the heart of organizing this week’s Pride festivities.

Though this is their first year of involvement in the P.R.I.D.E. society, Morris says they have attended society events throughout their time at King’s and has appreciated the presence of the society as a queer student.

“A goal of P.R.I.D.E. society in general is to be as inclusive as possible… at the same time, we’re a queer organization, our events are queer and you have to be respectful of the queer people at the events. It’s for us, but anyone can come,” said Morris.

Jake Norris, a third-year early modern studies and philosophy student at King’s, says he hopes to make it out to a couple of the week’s events.

“I think [Pride Week] is important in the way that any other event for equality is… I don’t like when events are esteemed as something unique. I feel like one of the most important and beautiful ways these events can be included is… in the same it’s Christmas, this is Pride Week. We’re not questioning why we’re celebrating it, we’re just celebrating it,” said Norris.

All students, no matter their gender or sexual orientation are welcome to participate in the week’s events.

Morris spoke to the panel discussion and workshop being hosted on Friday evening, saying “sexual and gender identity affects our professors and our staff, and the way we do things at King’s,” in addition to students. They also spoke of issues pertaining to access to gender neutral washrooms and respecting pronouns.

Morris shows off their Pride bracelet and society pins.
Morris shows off their Pride bracelet and society pins.

In their experience as a queer student, King’s has been an open and welcoming community to be a part of, Morris said.

“There’s still a lot of work we can do to be more inclusive and work with pronouns has not been as ideal as it could have been… not all people know how to talk about these issues. I think it’s largely a problem with assumptions,” said Morris.

Morris also notes important strides taken recently at the university, citing the Wall of Women and recent pronoun training done for the Wardroom’s staff orientation.

Reflecting on their experience with Pride Week last year, Morris says the visual support and presence of the society means a lot.

“We have tried to balance being politically involved and being a celebration of queer identity and diverse identities and all its forms.”

Morris hopes the week will be both informative as well as fun for all students at King’s.

A full list of the 2015 King’s Pride Week’s events can be found here.