Safety, consent and respect.
These were the main themes of conversation at Jay Well’s hair salon in Halifax on Monday night, as community members came together to discuss setting up a “gaybourhood watch.”
The group started when Wells, upset by the death of gay-rights activist Raymond Taavel in April, and then the assault of another friend a few weeks later, vented on Facebook Halifax should have some type of protection for people in the gay community.
When the Halifax businessman checked his profile the next day, the “gaybourhood” post had 68 comments, and a TV news crew showed up at his home.
“Obviously I hit a nerve here,” Wells said Monday night to a crowd of about 20 people.
“Harassment has almost become a way of life, but in light of Raymond’s death there needs to be zero tolerance.”
During the roughly 90 minute meeting, members of the LGBTQ community, youth workers and the coordinator for HRM’s victim services department weighed in with ideas on how to keep the streets safe for everyone.
Having a driver pick up people who aren’t comfortable walking home was one suggestion, as well as more police on isolated corners during the weekend, or using websites like Hollaback! Halifax.
Hollaback! draws attention to street harassment, and allows anyone to post their stories online. It also tracks where complaints come from on a map, so people can see where an incident has happened.
“I think we just need to start talking, and make our own actions accountable,” Owen Johnstone said at the meeting about what to do with the “gaybourhood” group.
“Maybe this is one issue, violence, that brought us together … but a lot of positive things can come out of this.”
A second meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 24 at 6 p.m., with updates being posted on the Gaybourhood Watch Facebook group.
“It’s empowering each other. We can do things, we don’t have to keep waiting, we don’t have to keep living in fear. We are the people who need to make the change,” Johnstone said.