MUSKOKA, ON-While different from larger cities, Muskoka has resources and events for anyone who identifies as a member of LGBTQ.

Secretary of the Muskoka Pride Community Shawn Forth spoke to MyMuskokaNow about living in cottage country as a member of LGBTQ and that there are resources available for those who need it. 

Forth notes that while different, it is difficult to describe what it means to be part of the community in Muskoka as there are many different sexual orientations and identities. 

He notes that as a white man who identifies as gay, he does not have the same experiences as what it may mean to be a woman or someone who may be gender diverse.    

When asking about the difference between Muskoka compared to larger cities like Toronto, Forth said a challenge LGBTQ-plus members face is that there are not the same support mechanisms in place like the ones in a broader community. 

He also that in larger urban areas, there are sports teams and support centres that focus on the LGBTQ-plus community.    

He notes, however, it has been a goal of Muskoka Pride for the past 12 years to built community connections so that support systems can tend to the border community and have more of an understanding for each of the specific needs of members. 

Forth noted that anyone who may be struggling with coming to terms with their identity should go at their own pace. 

“No one can push you into a box, you need to look into yourself, and I want to say, try on a different label. Realize what the other identities are and find the word and community that fits,” said Forth.

He adds that when people come out, they will find people in the community that are very welcoming and want you, but you must go at your own pace.

“The ‘coming out’ process, it never ends, and one of the hardest things to do is to come out to yourself first of all.”         

Forth went on to say that if you plan on coming out, be sure to do it in a situation you feel safe in. 

Before you tell your parents, try reaching out to a close friend and tell them the news. By doing this, you can gauge the reaction and then try to inform your parent or guardian about how you feel and who you are.

For the people who may one day receive the news of someone coming out, Forth said there are two things every LGBTQ member needs to hear, “We accept you for who you are,” and “This changes nothing about how we feel about you.”

When asked what types of support systems have come out to assist LGBTQ members, Forth said there are events like picnics, parades and film festivals. 

He also noted that throughout the year, many visibility days are designated for each member of the LGBTQ community. 

More information about events can be found on the Muskoka Pride site here.

Other available support services include hotlines like Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or by visiting the PFLAG site here that will assist with coming out and parental understanding.