2 min

Carving out a life in Sudbury

Sometimes it took curled fists to make hets understand

PRIDE. Sudbury homos didn't care about the sparce crowd.

Marco Theriault says he’s going to grow old in Sudbury.

“Now I could grow old here as a gay man,” says Theriault, an employee at the Access AIDS Committee Of Sudbury. “Whereas 10 years I wouldn’t have been able to.

“It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of fighting, sometimes fist fighting, literally.”

Theriault says that ‘phobes don’t mess with queer establishments anymore because Sudbury homos are known to fight back.

At this year’s Sudbury Pride parade, the sidewalks were all but bare as a few hundred cheering homos made their way through the downtown streets.

But that didn’t faze them.

“They hear us, they know we’re here,” says student Monique Albain. “They can’t ignore that we are proud.”

Sudbury Pride Day was also the third birthday of the local bar.

Zig’s is one of just two queer bars in all of Northern Ontario. But unlike the anonymous Back Street Klub in Thunder Bay, Zig’s is hard to miss with its splashy facade and rainbow totem poles.

Just in case, they remind you at the door. “Good evening, do you know this is a gay bar?” the bouncer asks patrons on their way in.

Today, Sudbury boasts a healthy and visible queer community. But Theriault didn’t always hold so much hope for the nickel town. In his teens he left Sudbury.

“It was as bare as the rocks in Sudbury before all the grass and trees were planted and took root,” he says.

Since his return seven years ago, he’s seen the community bloom. In the past six years the number of social and support groups has jumped from six to 56.

“Now there’s a sense of belonging,” he says. “Because you have the services here, you no longer have to run away to Toronto.”

Long time Sudbury activist and counselor Ziggy Sigouin wants exiled homos to come back. “Come on back home. Take what you’ve learned and apply it here.”

Sigouin came out 25 years ago. “When I first came out it was a redneck town, it’s a mining town. Not that it still isn’t homophobic, but I don’t think that it’s that bad.”

She says that when homos leave, they hurt those left behind.

“Well if they keep leaving it’s not going to happen! If people are afraid to come out and be counted then nothing changes.”

Welcoming youth into the community will make them more likely to stay and combat gay teen suicide, she says.

“You’ve got to share your hope, your dreams, your experience. That’s what community is about.”

Dances have been known to draw teenagers to seniors, with polkas played back-to-back with the latest techno craze.

Sigouin says that Sudbury has come a long way, but warns that there is still work to be done.

She says that for any minority, apathy is a danger.