2 min

North Bay is ready for homos

It's the homos who aren't ready to come out

HAPPY & SAFE. Transexual Denise Giroux has found acceptance up north.

When the north is your home, you’ve got to work to make it liveable.

Denise Giroux, a transgendered woman and member of Gays, Lesbians And Bisexuals Of The North Bay Area (GLBNBA), says that she’s found support in the city of 56,000.

“Some people say, ‘I’m surprised that you haven’t had the shit kicked out of you,'” says Giroux. “But no, they’re not as closed minded as some might think.”

When Giroux began her transition just under two years ago, doctors at Toronto’s Clarke Institute tried to convince her that it was time to move to the big city.

“They said, ‘The town’s too small, you won’t belong, people won’t accept,'” recalls Giroux. “But I said oh no, I need to be in North Bay where I belong!

“I’m a bush person. Toronto would be too large for me.”

Now, after years of working “manly jobs” like truck driving and fire fighting, Giroux has decided she wants to help queer youth. She volunteers with the city’s crisis intervention program, and plans to train as a counsellor. She wants to help people through the coming out process that she says almost cost her life.

“We are our own enemies,” she says. “What we make of ourselves.”

GLBNBA chair Mario Domingue agrees. He says that the hardest part of organizing in the north is helping people overcome their own difficulties with their sexuality.

Domingue believes that North Bay is ready to accept homos. It’s the community that isn’t ready to be accepted.

“A lot of them just don’t feel comfortable about being out,” says Domingue.

So Domingue leads by example. He maintains a very public life as a gay man. He “wears the colours.” He surveys local businesses to determine how gay-positive they are.

The door of his home is painted in rainbows and reads “Love makes a family.” (Domingue is also the founder of Gay Fathers Of North Bay Area.)

“By being visible, society sees us for who we are,” says Domingue. “This way it may make the members of the community feel better about coming out, and about themselves in general.”

But while the public profile of the group rises, the privacy of GLBNBA’s social meetings are key to its success, says member Manon Desgroseilliers.

Dances continue to draw hundreds, while more public outings see only a handful of participants. Last year when the location of a successful weekly coffeehouse switched from a private home to a community centre, attendance dropped off and the event was finally canceled.

“People just didn’t feel as comfortable in a public place,” says Desgroseilliers.

Those that do manage to make it to the group will find it a warm and accepting place, she says.

“It’s not critical, you go as you are. Everyone is welcome.”