Did you ever take your favourite recipe to a potluck at Sarson’s Beach, twirl on the dance floor at “The Barn”, or party around the pool for a Miss Flags drag contest at The Flags B&B? Maybe you flirted with a cutie at Primadonna when it was gay night or hung out with friends in the smoking pit at “The Centre” on Water Street.
Despite cries for a “gay” bar in Kelowna over the years, there were many community-driven events to enjoy. Before the days of dating apps, these events were ways to connect and find love, sex, and romance. Now we’re dealing with pandemic restrictions bringing many of us to have a different outlook on socializing and perhaps longing for those bygone days of in-person connection through community gatherings.
I recently asked community members what makes the Okanagan great and what is missing that would make it better from an LGBTQ perspective. Many thanks to those who responded. Keeping in mind the responses were a very small sampling, one thing that stood out is the need for mental health support programs. While free and low-cost services are available, it seems that many people are not aware of them. Being LGBTQ brings an added layer of concern when seeking mental health support to feel safe in a counselling setting.
Kelowna is fortunate to have options for LGBTQ-friendly mental health support services. Low-cost services are provided by Williams and Associates in Kelowna. Health Initiative for Men (HIM) offers professional, free, or low-cost counselling to gay, bi, and trans men as well as Two-Spirit and queer people in the Interior. Connect Counselling provides free or low-cost counselling to our community for both youth and adults.
It was noted that programs and activities for LGBTQ seniors would be great to have. With a growing senior population, there is an increasing need for the support of this demographic. See my article on Is It Time For Pride To March For Seniors?
There are a variety of activities and attributes that make the valley appealing to the LGBTQ community. Engaged community members are eager to volunteer for Pride month celebrations which (pre-pandemic) drew thousands of participants in recent years. Unicorns.Live provides live streaming entertainment with queer and mainstream content, including homegrown talent.
The Okanagan offers stunning scenery, parks, trails, and beaches. Choices are abundant for wine lovers to enjoy local wines, and Kelowna is known as a “foodie” city with several local chefs competing in Top Chef Canada.
We have much to enjoy and some things we could take action on to make the Okanagan even better for our community. Maybe too, you will all agree that when this pandemic is over, we should book a community potluck and reconnect. Hugs are overdue.
Wilbur Turner (he/him), who identifies as gay and queer, is a Kelowna-based writer and advocate who has contributed on many levels to LGBTQ rights, both locally and internationally.