Andrei Pascu, the Vice-President of GRIS-Montréal, a not-for-profit working to support LGBTQ2S+ youth in rural communities, regularly visits rural high schools to show LGBTQ2S+ students that they aren't alone — he told CBC News.
In an interview, Pascu explained that rural towns can make queer people feel alone because of the lack of representation within the community.
Rural towns often also have more bullying or homophobia, which is why it's common for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community to move to bigger cities where they can be themselves.
GRIS-Montreal visits high schools in smaller towns, speaking to LGBTQ2S+ students fighting against homophobia in these communities.
"We're not there to talk about statistics," said Pascu. "We're there to say what we lived as individuals who are part of the community."
Pascu said he believes the workshops are impactful. GRIS-Montréal takes surveys that track small-town attitudes toward the gay community.
"From the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out, you can see a positive change in the perception of students."
Even throughout the pandemic, GRIS-Montreal was able to meet with 18,000 students in the past year.
In his interview with CBC News, Pascu said he doesn't believe people are inherently homophobic. He added that if there is more representation within the community, it can break down stereotypes.
"I do believe that students can change their environment, whether at home or at school," he explained.
GRIS-Montréal will get back to guiding LGBTQ2S+ students through workshops in the fall, and they're accepting invitations to speak at schools.