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Garnet Jobagy finds comfort in the community of LGBTQ+ supports

When Garnet Jobagy lived in Toronto, LGBTQ+ supports were something she never felt the need to take advantage of, but living in North Perth she finds comfort in being able to connect with other members of the LGBTQ+ community. (Colin Burrowes Photo)

Throughout Pride Month, the Listowel Banner will feature a series of articles exploring the lives of LGBTQ+ community members, their influence on the community and supports available for them, their families and friends in North Perth.

Garnet Jobagy never officially came out to people. She just slowly let things drop in conversation, allowing her friends and family to either figure it out or not.

“It led to a funny moment (because) I had never fully come out to my dad properly,” she said. “It just never came up between us and then my stepmom noticed and said something to him and it ended up being a lengthy phone call of ‘OK, what’s happening?’ He thought all of a sudden I came out because I was going to leave my husband.”

Jobagy had to assure her father she had known about her sexuality and gender for quite some time but just never thought to bring it up with him.

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“It could have very easily been a woman I was married to though,” said Jobagy. “I just happened to fall in love with (my husband) because of who he is not because he is specifically male.”

She said she probably falls somewhere between bisexual and pansexual but because most people understand ‘bi’ better than ‘pan’, she just sticks with that.

“Pronouns are so personal. That’s part of how I figured out I was agender was I’ve been accidentally misgendered, sometimes I dress more masculine and I didn’t care.”

 – Garnet Jobagy

Jobagy doesn’t have preferred pronouns for herself.

“People tend to have preferred pronouns for me because I’m agender so I don’t really have a specific (pronoun) but most people use she and her, it’s most intuitive for them,” she said. “Pronouns are so personal. That’s part of how I figured out I was agender was I’ve been accidentally misgendered, sometimes I dress more masculine and I didn’t care.”

Jobagy said she doesn’t really have an internal sense of gender.

“My body has a sex but it doesn’t matter to me outside of a medical context,” she said. “I just dress how I dress and exist how I am and really conceptualize myself as a person.”

After growing up in the Windsor area, Jobagy made a quick escape to Toronto straight out of high school.

“I just didn’t want to stay there anymore,” she said. “Toronto is obviously very different.”

Her husband had to move when Erie Meats expanded to Listowel.

“He has since moved on to Ideal Supply,” said Jacoby. “We just decided to stay even though he didn’t stay with Eerie Meats. We enjoy it here. It’s a nice community for our two little girls but as an LGBTQ+ person it’s very different being here versus Toronto.”

She didn’t use most of the supports available to her in Toronto because being bisexual and agender she could fly under the radar.

“Most people just don’t notice you as much so I haven’t got much in the way of bullying when I was growing up or any problems like that – just this sense that I didn’t quite fit into where people thought I ought to,” said Jobagy. “But it was kind of nice being aware (supports) were there.”

The biggest LGBTQ+ support in Toronto is likely The 519, a community outreach centre on Church Street where most of the gay village is.

“If you are an LGBTQ+ person in Toronto and you are at all involved in the community you see tons of fliers, posters, advertisements for their different clinics,” she said. “They are (currently) running a clinic for trans people to help them change their names and as someone going through a name change right now for unrelated reasons, man that would be helpful. It is difficult to change one’s name even without the associated medical bits of this.”

Although she is changing her name for personal reasons, not because of her gender, she chose a neutral one.

Recently she has started attending Huron Perth Public Health LGBTQ+ GAB sessions.

“I’ve been to a couple of them, the virtual ones, and they are a great resource,” said Jobagy. “I love going to them.”

GAB sessions are being held virtually with information being posted on the LGBTQ+ Allies of Huron County Facebook page, however, they have been less frequent recently.

“It was nice to be able to sit and talk to other LGBTQ+ people in the Huron-Perth area, it wasn’t specific to Listowel so it was a large geographical area,” said Jobagy. “From what it sounds like, the meetings when they were in person were going from town to town so I just know for me as an adult, even with a driver’s license I can’t usually make it to evening things outside of Listowel.”

With two school-age children and a husband who works nights, she doesn’t have anyone to babysit after he goes to work.

“I just imagine if I was a teenager with even fewer resources, having something one or two towns over might as well be on the moon,” said Jobagy. “So I’m hoping that they keep the virtual option.”

At the time Jobagy was being interviewed by the Banner, she said there was no other LGBTQ+ specific supports or groups in Listowel, however, she later sent an email saying she had discovered the fledgling North Perth Pride, a group currently encouraging residents to submit a logo through a contest and making plans to hold a Pride celebration in 2022. For more information visit www.northperthpride.com.

“Minto has a really nice Pride organization,” she said. “I’ve been to their first Pride in the Park… it was lovely. I brought my kids. It was nice to have a family-centered Pride because some Prides run more adult-centric and some Prides run more family-centric and it’s good to have both options.”

When her eldest child, who is 10 now, went to kindergarten, Jobagy said she came home really upset one day because she had said she wanted to marry her best friend; she was told by the other kids at school that she couldn’t because her best friend is a girl.

“I said, ‘no honey, since the year mommy got married… two girls can get married (or) two boys can get married as long as they are adults,’” she said. “That’s the important thing is that the two people are adults.”

Jobagy’s daughter felt better but when she went back to school the other kids told her that her mom was wrong.

“It wasn’t the teachers – it was the kids,” she said. “The teachers had no clue (this discussion was happening). I talked to the teachers and they were like, ‘wait, what? What’s happening?’ Sometimes things with kids happen outside of adult earshot.”

The debate went back and forth until Jobagy decided to get a book.

“That’s usually the best way to sit down and figure out if something is true or not,” she said. “So to their credit the North Perth Public Library was able to easily get me a book. I didn’t even have to go for an inter-library loan.”

Jobagy read Heather Has Two Mommies to her daughter.

“That brought her some comfort and that’s fine,” she said. “It’s not that things are oppressive out here, it’s just that it’s not thought of, right? Nobody thinks to include it in examples of something. We don’t have a lot of exposure during Pride Month either. You don’t see any flags on things or any sort of notice that it is Pride Month out here which is jarring when you go down the street (to Minto). It’s not like I’m unwelcome but it’s not like I exist either.”

Jobagy is used to thinking about LGBTQ+ visibility on the Perth-Wellington riding scale, not just as a North Perth resident.

“I’m part of the NDP riding association out here. I’m their LGBTQ+ representative… there has been a lot of support there… they have been open and excited to have somebody LGBTQ+ on their executive and in the riding association,” she said. “

Her job as the LGBTQ+ representative is to have an eye on what is happening in the LGBTQ+ community within the riding.

“It’s kind of funny that most things happen on a Huron-Perth level but when it comes to voting it’s (Perth-Wellington),” she said. “So that’s one of the reasons I do know so much about what is going on in Minto. It’s because that’s part of my volunteer position, to report back to the executive and see if there are areas we might shore up or we might make an appearance.”

Jobagy described North Perth as a ‘vacuum’ when it came to finding LGBTQ+ activity. She eventually found True Colours, a support group for parents, supporters and allies of LGBTQ+ youth and adults, because she had approached the NDP and suggested an outreach consultation to see what people want in this area and see if they can help facilitate things.

She went to the library to see if she could get the space, knowing that it might be tricky because it’s political.

“Some places will give us space, some places won’t depending on what it is,” said Jobagy.

The North Perth Public Library directed her to True Colours.

“I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes if there is already something,” she said. “I’d rather just promote that. Why reinvent the wheel if somebody else has done it?”

However, at this point, True Colours has slowed down its activity and Jobagy said she has not seen any LGBTQ+ support at the municipal level.

“That’s why I was hoping to use what connections I had to get a little funding to even get a consultation going – get the library for free, get a couple of boxes of donuts sort of thing,” she said. “We were just going to try to get some people into a room and see what the community wanted out here. See if they wanted something like a Pride in the Park, a picnic, a book club – I wanted it to be what the community here would have wanted but we were getting that started in February and March of last year – it was really poor timing.”

Jobagy is planning to get back into it again when things start to open up. She ran again for LGBTQ+ representative in the annual executive election and got the position.

When she was living in Toronto she didn’t feel the need to make use of supports because she found being around the community was enough.

“Just going down to Pride and knowing that the village was there – if I wanted to go get a book on something specific I could go to the village and pick it up at one of the bookstores there,” said Jobagy. “All those resources were just there for the having but sometimes it’s just being around the community that’s nice… it’s nice to have casual things to do like I’ve mentioned book clubs or a coffee night or things like that.”

She has no doubts that if she had any medical problems and any discrimination problems and had to go to the OPP that she would be supported here in North Perth.

“It’s more just the lack of being able to hang out with other people like you,” said Jobagy. “That’s what the GABs seemed to be helping with. They are very informal chats. We do a lot of icebreakers. Usually, I bring knitting or something with me or a cup of tea and it just feels like even though it’s on Zoom that you are hanging out with a whole bunch of other people.”

According to Jobagy, acceptance is better now than when she grew up.

“I’m not going to school but I was one of the guide leaders here and we worked out of the high school,” she said. “You see Pride flags in the high schools. You see them either in the kids’ art or there is one hanging on the wall in the cafeteria… so the support is there, it’s just very quiet support. It’s not oppressive here but it’s just this void.”

Jobagy credits some of the new acceptance to the power of education.

“It’s not just for the LGBTQ+ kids, it’s also for all the other kids around so they just know what’s happening,” she said. “It’s the same reason why when you take sex ed you learn about the opposite sex a bit so that you don’t accidentally make them feel awful about something that’s just a normal biological function.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.