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Halifax-area gay couple hurt, claim their family made to feel unwelcome at sports club


HALIFAX - A Halifax-area gay couple say they are confused and hurt, claiming they were made to feel their family was unwelcome at a local martial arts club.

Ron Nugent and his son, Quentin Dawson-Nugent, 10, pose for a photo in Bedford.

Ron Nugent, 44, lives in the Wellington area near Fall River with his partner, Chris Dawson, and their son, Quentin. The 10-year-old had been going to Inner Strength Taekwondo Academy for four years when, according to Nugent, they were called a disturbance by some parents and asked to “take a break” by the coach.

“All this stuff took me by a blindside because we had had no negative interaction (before),” Nugent said Monday afternoon at a café, crossing his arms as he looked at Quentin seated beside him.

“The thing that upsets me the most is that Quentin has major attachment issues, so it took him a long time to feel … a sense of belonging at the club.”

Quentin spent years in foster care before being adopted, Nugent said, so consistency is important.

Quentin made good friends and most in the club were welcoming, but Nugent said there was “tension” from a couple of families who made ‘homophobic slurs’ ” and “were not favourable to our lifestyle.”

That came to a head during a May tournament in Cape Breton, where Nugent says a parent swore and yelled at Quentin, leading him to file a police report.

Meetings followed during which Nugent said some other parents called Quentin a troublemaker and Nugent “aggressive.”

They were asked to leave one practice by the coach and “take a break,” Nugent said, but no time frame was given and he said it was embarrassing for father and son to walk out.

After about three weeks, Nugent and his partner returned with Quentin and said the coach gave them a list of other recommended dojangs they could attend.

“I’m just kind of sad that I don’t get to practise with my friends anymore,” Quentin said. “It’s really sad to break that relationship.”

Helbert Porter, coach and owner of the club, said Tuesday he didn’t ask the Nugent-Dawson family to leave or “kick them out.”

When asked to comment about the family’s hurt feelings, Porter responded, “I’m not saying anything.”

“(We) were under every impression that through Master Porter’s dialogue that we were no longer welcomed at the club,” Nugent said. “That’s how we felt.”

Nugent, a school guidance counsellor, said he’s seeing an increasing number of children have self-confidence issues after being passed up for sports teams in favour of kids with more influential parents. He felt the need to speak out after it happened to his own family.

While Nugent said it hasn’t been easy being a same-sex couple with a bi-racial, adopted son living in Nova Scotia, they are involved in the community and have handled slurs and mean comments their whole lives. They brought Quentin up to “have a backbone” and prepared him for unpleasant situations.

Last week, Quentin began training at a Bedford club that Nugent said has been fantastic and welcomed the family with open arms.

“We’re strong, we’re diverse and we have a great little family and I’m very proud of us,” Nugent said with a smile at Quentin, sipping a mug of hot chocolate.

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