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New email supports Chilliwack gay community

Chilliwack's gay community now has an email support system to lean on.

Clarke Fryer, 25, has set up a Gmail account to support others in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning) community, so they won't have to go through what he went through as a young gay teen growing up in Chilliwack:

No one to talk to. No support. No acceptance.

"I'm not a psychologist, I'm not trained in this field, but I have been in this situation," he said. "And somebody to talk to is better than nobody."

The email is beheardinchilliwack@gmail.com.

When Fryer came out to his family in 2001, at 16 years old, they were the only ones who accepted him. He went through high school bullied, threatened, relentlessly picked on. His car was keyed, his tires repeatedly deflated. Even his own principal made him feel like an outcast, when he was told not to bring a male date to the prom, "for the comfort of other students."

He didn't have close friends, and didn't have anyone, who had gone through a similar situation, to go to for support.

Before coming out to his family, Friar became physically ill. He wasn't eating, couldn't concentrate, was losing his hair. He was depressed, isolated, borderline suicidal.

"It was really hard," he said. "It was eating away at me."

When he graduated, he moved to Vancouver for four years, not because he wanted to leave Chilliwack, but because, "there is so little support for people like me in Chilliwack," said Fryer. "There really is nothing here."

And yet, "there are a lot of people sourcing for support," said Fryer. "Young adults are really struggling, are really closeted in Chilliwack."

Fryer hopes the email support system will be a start towards change.

He does, however, realize not everyone in the community will be accepting of it.

"But a community is not a majority, a community is every single person," he said. "And even if this email helps just one person, it's a service that's needed."

Fryer chose email because it's discreet and can be anonymous if the person at the other end so wishes.

There are currently four people, including a parent of a gay son, who will be responding to emails, providing support, and passing on resources.

"This email is for everybody," said Fryer, pointing to teens, parents, young adults, middle age adults – anyone with questions, anyone needing support.

"If a person doesn't have support from family or friends, they've got no one," said Fryer. "This is a discreet way to ask questions and get support."

Anyone interested in volunteering for the cause can contact Fryer through email at beheardinchilliwack@gmail.com.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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