Southwestern Manitoba Pie Day celebrations affirm LGBTQ through education

Public. Intentional. Explicit.

These are the guiding principles behind Brandon’s Knox United Church’s Pie Day, featuring local musician and psychologist Anastasia Jane Gibson. Gibson shared her journey as a trans woman Saturday in the hopes it unites allies and educates the public — critical slices of Pie Day.

“It’s important for folks to recognize that within themselves and to do something very explicit about that. Being able to be bold on that. Being able to be aware,” Gibson said. “Having an event like this is incredibly important. It gives an opportunity for folks to band together in an open and affirming and safe environment to be able to have a conversation.”

Pie Day is a United Church of Canada initiative inspired by March 14, Pi Day. It is a chance to serve some pie and celebrate the full inclusion of LGBTQ and two-spirit people in faith communities across Canada.

The day is used to encourage people to be public, intentional and explicit of these values in their daily actions.

Combating exclusion

During her presentation, Gibson shared social media messages she has received describing her as mentally ill or miss-gendering her.

Gibson said she expected messages like this after “coming out so boldly” because she was a public figure in Brandon making her “a lightning rod for some of this negativity.”

Pies sit on a counter in front of a room full of people and LGBTQ flags and posters.
For Pie Day, the church serves up slices of pie, along with having guest speakers educate and provide tools on being public, intentional and explicit in how people can support the LGBTQ community in their every day lives. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“There’s a lot of scary and damaging messages that are coming out right now especially down south, that is trickling upwards about folks who are gender diverse and in the trans community,” Gibson said. “An opportunity like Pie Day, to be more affirming in folks’ resolve and being able to have an open conversation about this … is critical.”

Pie Day celebrates while educating, she says, along with acknowledging the trauma and pain members of the transgender, non-binary, two-spirit and gender-diverse community can experience.

Even advertising the day, Knox saw other Christians contacting the church on social media suggesting that they were “false teachers” harming children or calling homosexuality a sin, says Craig Miller, minister of Brandon Knox United Church.

“Within the Christian community, unfortunately, there’s still significant debate about whether it’s OK to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit,” he said.

A person takes note on supporting the LGBTQ community on a piece of paper that has rainbows and says affirming ministry.
A group takes notes on how to better be an affirming ministry at Knox. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Homophobia can be frequently rooted within the Christian community, Miller said, this makes it important as a Christian community of faith to say, “we have a different understanding of what it means to live out our God-given uniqueness and identity — gender identity, sexuality.”

Education key

Gibson says it is important to take a personal inventory of prior belief systems and behaviours that could make some people biased against trans people or other community members. Pie Day is a challenge to be open to new information and change these views.

“It’s humbling for me as a trans woman to be standing here educating and to have so many folks from so many different cross-sections of life not only listening, but to be able to be so open and embracing of the information that I’m presenting as well,” Gibson said. “I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of greater things.”

Pie Day marked the official public launch of the Westman Empowerment Fund — an initiative of Brandon’s Sexuality Education Resources Centre, Smitten Adult Boutique and Brandon Pride.

A woman stands in front of LGBTQ flags playing a guitar for a large audience inside a hall.
Gibson shared her experiences as a trans woman with those at Pie Day to help illustrate how to be a good ally. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Gibson says the fund was inspired by the barriers people can face financially when seeking the gender-affirming care they need. Helping overcome these challenges is essential, Gibson said, and the fund will be able to mitigate and remove some of the financial burdens that could impede someone’s care.

This is more important than ever because that’s the threat of what’s being taken away in the United States, she says.

“There are folks that are worried here in Canada that their care is being taken away,” Gibson said. “I think it’s fantastic that at that time there’s this fund that’s being developed that going to speak to that.”

At Knox United, people want to learn more and to think seriously about how they can be more intentional in welcoming the LGBTQ community, said Laura Crookshanks, P-Flag (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) co-ordinator and chair of the Knox United Church affirm committee. 

“When churches say they’re an affirming congregation that means that they should be living out this kind of welcome, and you can expect that from the church and that we recognize the importance of supporting everybody,” Crookshanks said.

“One of the things I often hear from folks in our congregation is that they want to learn more. They want to understand.”

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