Imagine being a young, gay teenager. You tell your parents that you’re gay, hoping that they’ll accept you and love you for who you are, but they don’t.
Instead, they kick you out of the house.
You end up sleeping on a friend’s couch for as long as they will let you — maybe a week or two, maybe a month. The only place to go after that is to another friend’s house, or out on the street.
Eventually, you might end up on the streets of Vancouver, prostituting for money.
Some find it hard to believe that this situation happens in Chilliwack, but it does. Some don’t even believe there’s a gay community in Chilliwack, but there is.
“Because we (the gay community) are not visible, there is that mindset that we are not out there,” says Michael Marks, a founding member of the Fraser Valley Pride Society (FVPS).
“There’s nothing here for gay youth if they get kicked out of their house,” says Christiane Coopman, fellow founding member of FVPS. “There is a real need for safe houses for gay youth in Chilliwack.
“There’s no where to call. There’s nothing for them. It’s like they are in the desert,” she adds.
Marks, Coopman, and the people at FVPS want to change that.
Together with the UFV Pride Network (UFVPN), they are raising money in order to one day provide resources, a help line, and eventually safe housing for the local gay community, specifically youths.
“The isolation is such that people don’t even know where to turn. We want to become the one-stop shop for anyone who has any questions,” says Marks. “We are trying to start somewhere. We need to get resources for the kids, and in order to start we need money.”
It begins for them this Friday with their first fundraiser where they will be celebrating the end of Halloween at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn.
Their event, Rouge: A night of Hellhounds Demigods and Devious Desires, will feature music by Phat Boyz, and appearances by internationally renowned entertainers Myria Le Noir and Mz Adrien. There will also be lots of raffles and prizes for best costumes.
They’ve sold 100 tickets already, and there’s room for 300 people at the event.
“The first week I sold 50 tickets without any advertising,” says Marks.
This event aims to raise funds for FVPS and UFVPN to cover operational costs as well as future outreach programs and anti-bullying campaigns in local schools.
The FVPS is a not-for-profit society which first began as a Facebook group in 2011. On Facebook, they’re called Out in Chilliwack, and so far more than 200 people have joined.
Currently, the FVPS offers support services for the local LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) community, and social events in Chilliwack. FVPS has socials every two weeks where new and current members get together for barbecues, movies, games and more.
The UFVPN, which began about eight years ago, is at a strong 300 members.
“You’ve got to have a vision and a dream and hope to accomplish anything,” says Marks. “You have to work towards it. You have to think the status quo is not acceptable.”
Rouge is not just for the gay community, says Marks. Everyone 19 and older is welcome to attend.
The event takes place Friday, Nov. 1 at the Best Western from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Tickets for Rouge: A night of Hellhounds Demigods and Devious Desires are $8 in advance and available at the Best Western, Soul 2 Sole, Touch N Tan, and Musicworx, or $15 at the door. Student tickets are $5 in advance at the UFV Chilliwack and Abbotsford campus book stores. Tickets are also two for $20 on the night of the event between 9 and 10 p.m.