by George Harvey
Action Circle Coordinator on LGBT issues in Toronto
Pride season has arrived for most of Canada and Pride events have begun to take place in communities such as BC’s Fraser Valley. One of the world’s largest Pride events begins in Toronto in just a few short weeks. As we begin our events of celebration, gratitude, and activism, we can take a few moments to reflect on the state of human rights for LGBT individuals globally. That we can even have Pride events has been the result of decades of extraordinary efforts by hardworking and committed activists. These individuals faced ignorance, hatred, violence, and legally-condoned condemnation, to stand up for their rights and for the rights of others.
It was just a few short decades ago that individuals in North America were legally prohibited from expressing their individuality or gender identity. A couple who shared both love and gender faced stiff fines and jail terms. It was a painful and dangerous time for our trans-identifying and homosexual brothers and sisters. Then, following a raid on on the Stonewall Inn (a gay bar in New York City), the community decided to fight back. They demanded their rights in several protests, and communities across the United States and Canada followed suit.
We can take pride in social progress
Today, in Canada, we have equal protection under the law, the ability to marry our loved ones, more balanced media exposure, and the creation of gay-straight alliances in several schools across the country. This has fostered a sense of inclusion within the community and helped combat negative attitudes and actions.
The fight, both at home and abroad, is far from over. Homophobic attacks are still far too commonplace, even in our most urban cities. Children are still teased relentlessly and the suicide rate of LGBT youth is three to four times greater than their hetero and gender normative peers. Transgendered people face challenges in many avenues, from gaining employment to using a public washroom. It may be challenging to notice homophobic and transphobic attitudes while marching in a supportive parade, but they exist and impact the lives of those on the receiving end of these attitudes. Today the country is less fearful and ignorant of LGBT people but work is needed to ensure that social attitudes reflect the reality that all people deserve to live their lives with dignity and grace.
Internationally, the LGBT community has welcomed many positive developments.
From the legal acceptance of marriage equality to the strengthening of current anti-discrimination laws to be LGBT inclusive, there are many causes to champion and celebrate during Pride. However, there are also waves of distressing news and developments. From the challenges faced by LGBT activists struggling with a burgeoning Pride movement in the Ukraine to the recent arrest and imprisonment of two men perceived to be homosexual in Zambia, Amnesty International still receives a distressing number of urgent cases from all around the world regarding LGBT people. The murder and suicide rate of transgendered individuals around the world is nothing short of alarming.
The fight for dignity and equality are the heart and soul of the Pride movement
The fight for dignity and equality, and the social progress resulting from it, are the heart and soul of the Pride movement. It is a time to celebrate with friends, feel proud and included for who you are and how you express yourself, and meet new and interesting people and ideas. Despite its aim for everyone to have fun and enjoy a carefree experience of love and inclusion, Pride has its roots in a political movement and is ultimately focused on its goal of equal rights for all people. In Canada and around the world, Pride acts as a catalyst for encouraging dialogue. Simply put, there is no Pride without the foundations of political activism, domestically and abroad.
We hope that you all enjoy your local Pride celebrations. Take time to celebrate. Enjoy yourself, have fun, meet new people. Most of all, be visible. Be outrageous or mild. Be outgoing or enjoy a quiet weekend. Be proud of who you are, not in spite of those who would judge you, but independent of them. However you choose to celebrate Pride, we hope it is a great and safe time for everyone.
Happy Pride Everyone!!!!! Be yourself. Be proud.