There was a time when being openly gay or lesbian in Lake Cowichan could be dangerous.
It could make you a target for hate, slurs, and even violence. People didn’t even really consider the rest of the LGBTQ2+ spectrum.
Thus very few were willing to be open about their sexuality if it differed from the accepted heterosexual norm. It was simply accepted as fact that Lake Cowichan was a place where it was still OK to boast about being a redneck, with all of the intolerant viewpoints associated with the designation, not merely in a “we’re hicks and proud of it” kind of way.
So to say that having the rainbow flag flying at Lake Cowichan town hall for Pride Month is a milestone is almost an understatement. Many would never have dreamed such a thing possible even five or 10 years ago. And according to Lake Cowichan town councillor Lorna Vomacka, who has been a staunch LGBTQ2+ advocate, people have accepted the flag raising with no outpouring of nasty responses or acts of vandalism.
During Pride Month students from both Lake Cowichan Secondary and Palsson Elementary also painted rainbow crosswalks to honour the occasion. This, too, would have been unheard of a decade ago. We can only imagine the horde of parents that would have descended on the school administration objecting to their children taking part in such an activity back in the day.
That’s not to say that things are perfect. As Vomacka tells us, there are still people who are uncomfortable about being open with their sexual orientation due to fear of community backlash. And their fear is not unjustified. Not everyone has yet gotten with the times, or even practices tolerance for those who step outside historical social norms. The hate has never made much sense, of course, and usually stems from fear. But gradually, it seems, people are accepting that someone else’s sexuality, should it differ from their’s, is not threatening. It’s not something to be afraid of. It just is.
Nor do people have to be afraid of their own sexual orientation.
Many people now have friends, family and colleagues who are part of the LGBTQ2+ community. When “they” become someone you know, it’s hard to cling to outdated ideas.
The change has been slow, and sometimes it has seemed non-existent. But the rainbow flag flying above the town hall affirms that it is, indeed, happening. There’s still a ways to go, but looking at all the progress that’s been made lends credence to the idea that we will get there.