Rainbow Crosswalks in Kitchener-Waterloo Not Enough

My hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo recently installed two new rainbow crosswalks - one in Downtown Kitchener and one in Uptown Waterloo. On May 31, the one in Waterloo was vandalized. I have a lot of opinions and am of course upset, but I want to be clear: While I am upset by this vandalism, I am not surprised.

To put it simply, Kitchener-Waterloo is not a safe and inclusive place for all LGBTQ+ people and while the world continues to evolve, our community has a long way to go. I have lived and worked all across Canada and have never experienced homophobic violence, both physically and verbally, the way I have in KW... and this is as an able-bodied, white, cisgender, gay man.

While I can appreciate and commend the showing of solidarity our cities intended with these crosswalks, to promote pride and visibility in a community that is crying out for safety, education, and funding as it relates to queer issues, events, and organizations is putting the cart miles ahead of the horse. In short, it is cavalier and dangerous.

I will never forget attending the candlelight vigil in Uptown Waterloo after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, where I heard proud, queer, Latinx community members speak out for greater education, funding, support, safety, and visibility, only to be followed by tone-deaf politicians each repeating that they dream of a day where “we aren’t gay or straight - we are just people”... completely missing the message of the queer voices that spoke immediately before them.

When we live in a community where LGBTQ+ events and organizations consistently experience funding shortfalls... where a conservative columnist regularly espouses her opinions in one of our local papers without a balanced counter-voice... where I saw no justice or police action after I was attacked outside of one of our only queer-friendly bars, yet they painted rainbow flags on the hoods of our police cars shortly after... a rainbow crosswalk doesn’t cut it.

If anyone is interested in organizing a response to this vandalism (or already is and wants help!), I will be communicating with local politicians and community members and would love to join others in doing so.

-Editor's Note: If you're interested in getting involved or want to learn more, you can contact Ryan at Ryancoulter1@gmail.com.