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North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice, encourages people to find their place on the rainbow

May 17 celebrated as International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice wants to raise awareness of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, celebrated on May 17.

First created in 2004, the day was initiated to draw attention to the violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexed people and all of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions and sex characteristics (LGBTQIA2S+).

The international day of acceptance is recognized in more than 130 countries, including 37 of which hold same-sex acts as illegal. Thousands of initiatives are undertaken around the globe.

“Praying the gay away” and conversion therapy have shaped the life of North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice.

“I think the day is so relevant to current circumstances,” she told The Northern View after posting on her social media a video of her addressing the provincial legislature four years ago when Motion 13 - Opposition to Conversion Therapy was debated.

Rice said in the video she struggled as a youth with depression and “carried a heavy dark cloud” over her head. She sought guidance for her “mood disorder” from a councillor at a youth drop-in centre.

Rice described the councillor as a gentle, soft-spoken woman who was caring, compassionate and made her “feel heard.” She revelled in her attention and, as a youth, felt she had a connection with the woman.

It wasn’t long until the councillor acknowledged that she was gay and could help the young Rice ” “cure” her “gayness.”

“For my counsellor, I was depressed because of my homosexual tendencies and she had a treatment for that - together we tried to pray the gay away.”

“Little did I know, as a vulnerable youth, I was the subject of conversion therapy,” Rice said in her legislative address, explaining that conversion therapy is a set of practices that intend to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity to fit heterosexual, CIS gender standards and expectations.

“It is often religiously motivated,” Rice said. “Therapies can include methods such as talk therapy, electro-shock therapy, treating LGBTQIA2S+ identity like a drug or alcohol addiction issue. While certain therapies like talk therapy are legitimate forms of care for people who experience mental health problems. Being gay or trans is not a mental health disorder.”

Rice said she is happy to report she “escaped conversion therapy” and is happily married to her wife.

Discrimination, violence and practices such as conversion therapy can cause people to not be accepting of who they truly are at their core Rice explained.

“This can lead to depression and suicidality in vulnerable people. Being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender does not cause these mental crises, but being repeatedly told by people you love and trust that you are fundamentally wrong does.”

The North Coast MLA encourage any who is struggling to accept their place on the rainbow.

“Please reach out to supportive services in your community and know that it truly does get better,” she said. “Just be yourself.”