Lethbridge is the fourth largest city in Alberta, with a population of approximately 80,000. But despite its relatively large size, the gay scene is unfortunately a little sparse. Not to say that there aren’t any queer people in Lethbridge, because there are actually quite a few. They are everywhere, and in every profession - doctors, lawyers, students, bakers, reporters, mechanics, bankers, teachers, butchers, sales clerks, hair stylists, and even city councillors.
It’s just that there are very few who are boldly active in the gay community or publicly advocate for GLBT issues. Religious and political conservatives have a strong presence in Southern Alberta, and this city, like most towns in Alberta, has a reputation for being a “hick town”.
Perhaps the GLBT residents of Lethbridge are afraid to come out of the closet for this reason. Red neck Albertans with right-wing beliefs can be cruel and extremely closed-minded. For instance, take Pretty, Witty, & Gay, an annual event presented by University of Lethbridge students and staff. It is described as “A Celebration Of Sexual Diversity on Stage” and the show gives voice to important issues through drama, comedy, dance, songs, stories, and poems. Nevertheless, posters for this event often get torn down by town folk.
There are no gay bars in the city, and with the exception of GALIA (The Gay and Lesbian Integrity Association, at the University Of Lethbridge), almost no resources for the GLBT community. Naturally the queer residents of this town are anxious for something to do, and are tired of living in a town where there is no gay “scene”. But hopefully one day soon, this will all change.
They’d like to be able to have a place to go and have a few drinks with friends without getting bothered by homophobes, and many of them would like for there to be more support available to them.
That is exactly the goal of GALA/LA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Lethbridge and area).
GALA/LA was formed in 1991 and incorporated as a Society in 1996. Like many other GLBT groups, GALA’s history relates back to the 80’s and the early days of HIV/AIDS in the gay community, when people started to unite to provide support and share information. GALA provides programs and social networking to a membership of 200 Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Two-Spirited, Queer and Trans-Identified individuals.
Ongoing services have been the Peer Support Phone Line, GALA Occasion (monthly newsletter), the website, coffee nights, monthly family potluck dinner gatherings, dances (9 a year), and the pride BBQ.
Over the years, GALA has received funding for short term projects such as: Education and Awareness of HIV/AIDS, Outreach to educators and service providers, research in sexuality/sexual activity of men, and a youth program named “Colors”.
This past year, GALA has started working towards securing operating funds for an office/center of their own, so that they can provide more programs and services to Lethbridge’s LGBT community. GALA has recently updated their bylaws and applied to be registered with the federal government as a charity organization, which will allow them to apply for more grants and issue tax receipts for donations. A donor in Toronto has indicated that they may provide some support once they fulfill these requirements. They have also started the long process for obtaining bingo and casino licences to raise additional funds.
This article concludes with a brief inventory of Lethbridge’s current LGBT events:
For the past 11 years, dances have been scheduled up to nine times a year, typically running from August to May (with the exception of December). These events provide an opportunity to meet and interact with other GLBT people in a safe and welcoming environment. Attendance ranges from 120 to 180 people, often including individuals from Lethbridge, surrounding communities, Medicine Hat, Crowsnest Pass, and Calgary.
The next social dance will be held on August 30th from 9:00pm - 2:30am at Creation Hall (4410 - 43 St N). Hot music, fabulous drink prices, good friends, great fun, and lots of dancing. All proceeds go to support programs/services provided by GALA.
Friday Drinks & Social
Held every Friday at La Bella Notte, upstairs (402 - 2 Ave S), starting at 10 pm.
GALA Occasion has been published eight or more times a year for the past fifteen years, featuring news about Lethbridge and from around the world. Three hundred copies are printed for each edition, mailed to members across Canada, and distributed to coffee shops and organizations in Lethbridge and surrounding cities, including Medicine Hat and Calgary.
Peer Support Phone Line
(403) 308-2893 - Volunteers accept calls Mon/Wed 7:30pm to 10:30pm and provide support with topics such as self-acceptance, coming out, employment issues, information about events or businesses, relationships, and safer sex. The service has been running since 1994, and been used by friends and family of GLBT, and even teachers, counsellors, and media.
Lethbridge LGBTQ Youth Group
Meets every second Wednesday from 3:30 - 5:00 pm. Contact the coordinator Betty Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org or (403) 381-5260 for more information.
Gay in LA
A radio show hosted on the University of Lethbridge community radio station. The radio waves are rocking the colours of the rainbow, the hottest tracks, and the latest on the LGBT scene in Lethbridge. The show runs Saturdays 7:30pm-9:00pm (www.ckxu.com and email@example.com)
Family gatherings for potluck, movies, and games have been scheduled each month from September to June. These gatherings provide opportunity for social interaction and support. The potlucks are coordinated with GALIA, and are held on the second Sunday of each month (from September to June) from 5:30pm-8:00pm, at McKillop United Church (2329 - 15 Ave S).
This year’s Pride Barbeque will be held Sunday, June 22nd at 6:00pm at Pavan Park (at the John Martin Recreation area - North on 13 Street). Invite friends/family, bring your own drinks, and wear your pride.
Food, plates/utensils will be provided. Play some games, visit with friends, and celebrate. Entertainment will include: Calgary’s “Smith on Sunday”, and performances from Pretty, Witty, & Gay 2008. You are welcome to bring your pets, but they must be on a leash.
c/o Lethbridge HIV Connection
1206 - 6 Avenue S, Lethbridge, AB