Proud About Pride

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June 13, 2016

On June 1st, I was joyfully tweeting about how excited I was that June had been officially named Pride Month – something that has never happened before in this country. Even more exciting was that on this same day, another first in our country’s history took place. June 1st 2016 also marked the first time a Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, took to Parliament Hill to raise a Pride flag, and announce he was looking forward to attending Pride parades across the country this summer. This was a truly beautiful moment. I can only imagine how amazing this moment must have been for everyone who has fought so hard to have their voice heard, and LGBTQ rights acknowledged.

When you think back to the 1981 bathhouse raids that happened in this city, we have certainly come a long way. Even thinking back to two years ago when former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford snubbed the World Pride festival, and was the only person to vote against a proposal to help gay homeless youth, our new Mayor John Tory is definitely making a much more progressive statement now. The legislative accomplishments over the past year are also worth noting. I am really proud to have witnessed more and more legislative change in favour and support of the LGBTQ community, and The Torontoist wrote a great article detailing all of these legislative accomplishments that have occurred since June of 2015 in the City of Toronto. Despite these accomplishments, I know it is quite obvious we still have a lot of work to do. Although our country still has quite a ways to go in certain respects, we must not discount the progress that has been made. This progress shows that change is in fact occurring, and I think this sends a positive message of hope to those fighting for the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

At the end of last month, I attended the Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg as a youth delegate, where I was glad to observe a similar theme. In one panel discussion held by the Young Liberals, they expressed support for defending transgender rights. They also urged the necessity of passing legislation prohibiting gender identity as a basis for discrimination, which would be included and protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The discussion included a moving speech by a gentleman from Lebanon, who recalled the difficulty of growing up gay in a country where homosexuality is unfortunately widely unaccepted and discriminated against. Listening to the Young Liberals discuss their plans to organize in order to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ community, was very empowering and inspiring. Seeing young people becoming so passionately and actively involved in politics and doing their part to advance change from a young age, is absolutely amazing, and we definitely need more of this not only in Canada, but also around the world.

I think one of the main problems associated with homophobia and discrimination of the LGBTQ community, is that these people who discriminate don’t fully understand this community, and therefore, disagree with the choices this community makes. I personally don’t understand how people can have so much hate towards a person or community who are doing absolutely nothing wrong. Everything about this is problematic. Not all couples look a certain way, and it is unfair to discriminate against those who choose to love a different gender or sexual orientation than you do. While some couples may look unfamiliar to you, it most certainly does NOT make them any less human, or any less of a couple, and they are DEFINITELY not inferior to you in any sense. It is okay to hold your own personal view of what you think a couple should look like, but it is NOT okay to discriminate against those who don’t fit your mould. All people should be treated equal no matter who they love, and it is a sad reality that this is not yet the case…even in the year 2016. It is 110% unacceptable that because of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they are unfairly discriminated against. This makes no sense whatsoever. At the end of the day, we are all human. Each and every one of us deserves the freedom of being authentically true to ourselves, and the freedom to love and be with whomever we want!!!

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While exciting things are happening in my country and city this month to celebrate and honour Pride Month, unfortunately the LGBTQ community in other areas of the world are not being welcomed with the same reception. Yesterday morning I woke up to the horribly devastating news of Orlando’s hate crime, which has been named the deadliest mass shooting to ever take place in the United States. In this senseless act of violence, a 29 year-old man named Omar Mateen, opened fire at a gay nightclub called Pulse, leaving 50 killed and an estimated 53 injured, many of which are quite severe. While some people were quick to deflect attention from this tragedy and turn this into something about gun violence and Islam, we must not stray from the fact that this is an attack specifically targeted towards harming the LGBTQ community. This breaks my heart. As President Obama wrote in his statement regarding this shooting: “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub – it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.” Many have taken to Twitter to describe how important having a place like Pulse is to them, expressing their fears of holding hands or showing affection towards their partners in public. I can’t comprehend how some people remain so close-minded in terms of accepting others who are different than them, and how one could go so far as to hurt innocent people who are happily enjoying themselves, causing no harm to anyone. My ultimate dream is to live in a world where we all openly celebrate and respect each other’s differences, rather than judge, discriminate and hate people because of them.

We cannot continue to lose the lives of innocent people to these horrible instances of hate. We cannot continue to judge one another because we have different preferences. We cannot afford to lose any more lives to something so ridiculous, and we most certainly cannot have the LGBTQ community living in fear of these sorts of things happening to them. The bottom line is this community exists and it will continue to exist and flourish, and neither bigotry nor hatred can change or stop this. Love is love, and we must stand united and speak out on the importance of defending the safety and rights of the LGBTQ community. Our voice must be louder than ever before. I am going to use my voice to stand up for the LGBTQ community, and express the fact that attacks like this are not okay, they are not humane, and they shall not continue. I would like to send my condolences to all of the families and individuals who have been affected by this horrible tragedy. To these families, and to everyone who is part of the LGBTQ community, I am mourning with you and I wish you all the strength and courage during this difficult time. Do not let this terrible attack on your community silence you or cause you to live in fear…that is the exact intention of the perpetrator and you must not play into this. Stand tall, stand proud, and continue to be unapologetically YOU!

Although I can’t do much to stop people like Omar Mateen, what I can do is work towards removing this sexual stigma, and helping to prevent history from repeating itself. What I can do is show the LGBTQ community that as a straight woman, I fully support them and I stand united in this fight to achieve equality and fight to have their rights as humans recognized. What I can do is devote some of my time to attending events in the community, and learning more about specific issues that are pressing to the LGBTQ community, and find out ways I can help use my own voice to make a difference. What I can do is spend some time educating myself on issues that I don’t know much about, so I can help educate others. This is what this month is all about for me. I am looking forward to meeting some of the heroes in the LGBTQ community and listening to them tell their inspiring stories. I’m looking forward to joining forces with the LGBTQ community and getting involved in this fight for justice.

There are tons of amazing events taking place throughout the city of Toronto during Pride Month (June 1st-July 3rd), and I am really looking forward to attending some of these. Unfortunately I am unable to attend all of the cool events I would like to due to my schedule, but I am eager to attend two human rights panels in particular: BeyondQueer Politics – 35 Years of Women’s Activism at the Intersections (June 21st), and Blackness and Queer Politics (June 29th), and I am looking forward to attending my first ever Pride Parade!!!!!!

For all things Pride, head over to PrideToronto to find out more about all the events, marches, and parades taking place this month, as well as ways to get involved volunteering. You should also check out some of the great merchandise Bobo Academy has created for this year’s festivities (I really need to pick up the pink “You Can Sit With Us” shirt). I would like to wish you all a very happy Monday, and a wonderful week ahead. Let’s stay strong and remain positive, and remember to always stand up for what you believe, and speak out when things aren’t right!

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