Willa Julius is leading the push to create a group dedicated to providing safe spaces for LGBTQ people in Williams Lake.
The first meeting of the Williams Lake Pride Committee is set to take place tonight, Jan. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Williams Lake library.
The goal, says Julius, is to create a safe space and support members of the LGBTQ community in the Cariboo.
“What I want this committee to be is a safe space for those in Williams Lake who are part of the LGBTQ2+ group and their allies,” she told the Tribune. “I want to bring more attention to the fact that once you are finished high school there aren’t a lot of resources or safe spaces in Williams Lake.”
LGBTQ2+ and LGBTQ are acronyms used as a group term to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two spirit and other sexual orientations or gender identities.
LGBTQ herself, Julius she says the idea for the group sprouted when she was attending Pride celebrations in Kamloops, and started wondering why Quesnel had pride events and Williams Lake didn’t.
Now, she hopes the group will help break down stigma within the community, as well as provide a place for people to go once they’ve left school.
“A lot of people that I’ve had as friends growing up identify as LGBTQ, a lot of people I have worked with, myself. It’s just something that within the new millennium has been becoming more and more accepted. I feel that as humans, and as people, we are trying to move past that idea that those who identify as another gender or who are transgendered don’t have a mental illness. People who have attraction towards the same sex, they don’t have a mental illness. It’s breaking down the walls of that stigma and making it less of a scary idea for a lot of people.”
She also says that it’s particularly important to have a group like this in more rural communities like Williams Lake.
“Because of the culture within a rural community it’s important to let people know that we are here and it is not something to discriminate against. It is something that a lot of people within rural communities still may have trouble with, but it is something that I personally would like to talk objectively about in a way where people understand but can be more civil about.”
She says the first goal of the group is to broaden their voice and make sure people know they exist. She says allies are also welcome to be part of the committee.
“We would like to one day hold events, but of course during the meetings we will decide what we want to do in the year and in the future,” she says. “Similar to Kamloops Pride we want to hold events where it is a safe space and people can just visit and talk about their experiences, just make a more organized community.”
If someone is unable to attend the meeting, or wants to know more, Julius encourages them to send a message to her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WLPride/, or attend a monthly meeting.
She’s also planning on posting the minutes of the meetings on the Facebook page.
“People who are interested can come in and we are just discussing what people would like to see for the year and just going over what the committee is all about,” she says.