“Love is love. Pride is love. Love is a celebration of authenticity and the freedom to be my true self without any discrimination.”

prideThese are the words of Larry G. Kobos, a member of the SEIU Healthcare Executive Board. In 2019, he acclaimed the LGTBQ2+ seat for another four years and entered his second term earlier this year. Larry has been a Development Service Worker (DSW) for many years and is currently working at Vita Community Living Services and Mens Sana Families.

Although the 2020 Pride Marches were cancelled due to COVID-19, all around the world, small groups gathered to celebrate Pride month. In the midst of a pandemic, the world is also witnessing the largest civil rights movement in history. Standing together has never been more important.

“Pride began as a protest and will continue to be a protest until equal rights and justice is achieved for all. Pride month is a celebration of diversity! It is a month that commemorates years of struggle by countless people to get where we are, and a reminder that we all still have a long way to go. This pandemic will have a very lasting impact in Toronto’s village. The local businesses in the village are in a lot of danger and need help from all levels of government to survive. If the village exists once the pandemic is over, the remaining spaces will eventually disappear. We need these local businesses now more than ever because they create a safe place and a sense of community for the residents in the area,” Larry shares.

PrideAfter Toronto shut down due to the pandemic, there has been an increase in both transphobic and homophobic discrimination. In turn, this has led to a rise in mental health-related issues within the LGTBQ2+ community. Although the closure of face-to-face mental health services has led to the creation of several online and virtual based resources, the LGTBQ2+ community still requires specialized support for the unique challenges they face.

“Right now, the LGTBQ2+ community needs allies and friends. We need others to be good listeners, keep an open mind, and be willing to talk. A person could be looking for your support in their coming out process. It is important to not make any assumptions and help them feel like they are in a safe place. Always remember it is their story of coming out – its not for you to tell. No one should ever feel pressured to adhere to anyone’s timeline but their own. It is your journey in life and your writing the best chapter of your life ever. If you are not living openly as LGTBQ2+ quite yet, make sure that you find other people in your community who love you just the way you are, because love is love. Every LGBTQ2+ person needs to feel safe and supported on their own in their journey of letting those people in who you deserve to let in.”