Embracing our differences creates a diverse community

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There was a time not too long ago that the thought of flying the Pride Flag in downtown Amherst would not have been allowed. It also wasn’t that long ago that having a gay rights event in a church wouldn’t have been tolerated since one of the most conservative institutions in humanity tends to be religion.

Times have changed and the Pride Flag is once again hanging in downtown Amherst and First Baptist Church hosted the half-hour ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of Pride Week in this community and across Nova Scotia.

As several speakers said during Thursday’s celebration, the effort to bring about equality for LGBTQ members has come a long way over the past 20 or so years. However, while there’s much more acceptance of gays and lesbians in today’s society – there are still many individuals and institutions who believe homosexuality is heretical, sinful and downright incorrect.

Homophobia remains alive and well in some segments of our world. There is still discrimination in the workplace and many young people are afraid to come out of the closet because the attitudes of their peers are not as tolerant or accepting as those of their parents and most adults in today’s society.

While people no longer cross the street to avoid someone who has openly come out of the closet, it’s hard to believe may of those who profess to be gay, lesbian, transgendered, queer or questioning still face the threat of physical and verbal abuse.

And as much as we must continue working toward true equality in Canada, the need is even greater in many other places in this troubled world where people can be harassed, arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned – or even killed – for being gay.

Although there are still many dark periods, we have to recognize that there are also many successful people who are openly gay or lesbian that are political leaders, heads of industry and sports figures many people look up to. And a sign that we are moving toward a more tolerant society is the fact these people are revered for their accomplishments in the legislature or House of Commons, the business world and on the sports field and not because of their sexual orientation.

Everyone has a role to play in creating an inclusive society. That includes accepting those who are different, even if you don’t agree with their sexual choices. Whether someone is born gay or becomes gay is not important. What is, is their ability to live, play and work in a community, province and country that respects their differences and accepts them for who they are.

Organizations: Amherst and First Baptist Church, House of Commons

Geographic location: Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada

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