Written by Kevin Saya-Moore
The Men’s Health Forum in Kelowna welcomed Oliver Ferlatte and David Le from CBRC to the sunny Okanagan and the September 2012 weather did not disappoint us. Oliver presented the results of the Sex Now survey 2011. By using postal codes, the Okanagan results provided insight into the experiences of the guys in our own community. As coordinator of the Men’s Health Program, it was a pleasure to welcome the collaboration with CBRC to bring this event to our area.
Olivier’s presentation noted some of the issues in the gay community. Of note is the result showing men in the interior are less likely to be connected with community. There is a feeling by many that they are isolated from others in the community and that there are very few if any social supports. The effects of this isolation are made worse by barriers to health support and opportunities for encouraging health and well-being.
“I enjoyed meeting other gay guys, even though I had to overcome a lot of fear to attend. I learned about the work involved in gathering information for surveys and studies. I enjoyed speaking with other gay men about sexual health issues.” (Forum Participant)
Overall, the effects of minority stress in Kelowna are noted with the perception and experience of a greater degree of homophobia in the conservative Okanagan. The experience of homophobia has been related through surveys done through Living Positive and one completed through the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention at the University of BC in the Okanagan.
“The information encouraged me to start up conversations with other gay men in the Okanagan. It confirms a lot of my intuitive perceptions, such as the amount of ‘discreet’ male for male sex that occurs and the relationship that many men have to drugs and sex.” (Forum Participant)
Those attending the Men’s Health Forum were actively interested in the presentation and the presence of Olivier and David created a sense of connection between the community in Vancouver and Kelowna. We look forward to another Men’s Health Forum in 2013.
Kelowna had its largest PRIDE event ever last summer and the most extensive media coverage. The most remarkable outcome was the greater visibility of our community and one cannot deny how this may educate and improve somewhat the level of acceptance. A few committed persons have worked hard over the years to bring about change. The Sex Now survey indicates there is still much work that needs to be done.