John Middleton is happy Haliburton County is becoming more aware of resources available for gay people.

Middleton is the only gay person at Extendicare Haliburton that he knows of. He is in a wheelchair, and at 84 years old, needs to be helped to events.

On a recent warm sunny day, Middleton and a bunch of other seniors from the community came together at the SIRCH Bistro to talk about allyship, support one another, and boost visibility.

Middleton is a frequent attendee to events that Aging Together as Community (ATAC) puts on.

Peter Ferri, of ATAC, said “that was the intent, to come together socially, and get to know people, and to bring that group together to show a presence in the community.”

Middleton was at first “reticent” about coming out at Extendicare, citing concerns about being ignored or left alone.

“I decided that ‘hell, come what it may, I’m coming out’,” Middleton said. “I was surprised the majority of staff, and others, have been very accepting, because it’s a nonissue for them.” He added his goal in coming to the event was meeting new people.

Being in fellowship with others who identify as part of the same group boosts morale and gives people a sense of belonging, which promotes mental and physical health, and allows individuals to flourish in all aspects of their lives, according to the Belonging Project at Stanford University.

Allan Guinan, the chair of Minden Pride, said the theme of the meeting was for everyone to help each other. He said it was also important to Minden Pride to help peers and seniors. Guinan himself wanted to support everyone in the community, including different age groups – youth and seniors.

Minden Pride is present at a lot of events throughout the County each year, including the Pride Festival in August. They have a community resources section on their website for people needing support.

“Over the eight years we’ve been doing this, we started out with more skeptics, maybe a little bit more hostility around the queer community, and eight years on, the fact that we’re being invited to go to all the different county fairs and Canada Day celebrations and farmers’ markets, makes people see the importance of being inclusive to everyone,” Guinan said.

In terms of hosting the event, Gena Robertson, the executive director of SIRCH, said these types of events match their core values. “I think it extremely fits; our goal is to promote inclusivity and supports, and if we can do that in a very small way by offering space, I think we need to do that.”

ATAC puts on social events for LGBTQ+ seniors and allies on the last Sunday of each month.

“I’m happy to see that people are willing to come out and not be afraid or ashamed of who they are. That’s important,” Middleton said.