Tackling stigma issues through education
CBU students partner with Ally Centre to educate public
Christie Ragan is very familiar with the damaging effects a stigma can have on a person.
After all, the third-year student in Cape Breton University’s community studies program is close to a young person who has been suffering abuse and bullying because he is a member of the LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
“He came out when he was 13 and since then there has been very little support in the schools — there are kids his age and younger that have been thrown out of their homes and they have nowhere to go and community services can’t help them, cops can’t help them, they can’t go to Transition House, there are no homeless shelters for kids, there’s nothing, there’s no support here for them,” said Ragan, who is part of a group of CBU students that has partnered with Sydney’s Ally Centre for its community action project.
The group’s goal is to work with the centre, formerly known as the AIDS Coalition, in an effort to help reduce stigma issues for all vulnerable populations.
“We’re basically saying ‘Hey, wake up, everybody, these are people, too, and they deserve all the rights and respects that the all of us deserve,’” said Ragan, a northern British Columbia native who now calls Glace Bay home.
The students have launched a social media campaign and will host an anti-stigma public talk on March 2 in the multiversity room at Cape Breton University. The discussion begins at 2 p.m. and will be led by Ally Centre executive director Christine Porter. Two other featured speakers will be present at the talk that is open to the public.
Meanwhile, the Ally Centre is continuing to operate, but under the constant cloud of future funding cuts. The centre will lose significant funding for its LBGTQ+ initiatives in December and its HIV education initiatives in March of 2018.
The centre, which opened its doors in 1992, is dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, and to supporting those that have been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Christie Ragan stands outside the Ally Centre in Sydney. Ragan is part of a group of Cape Breton University students that has partnered with the centre to help fight the societal stigmas that haunt many members of vulnerable populations.