Sunday, 17 May 2015

IDAHOT 2015: Ending LGBTQ Discrimination

Egale Lanyard

It's the International Day for the Elimination of Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

I was astounded a few years ago when I first heard of a person being discriminated on the job for being gay. I couldn't understand why the gender an employee was attracted to was an employer's concern. I was also shocked to hear that homosexuality was criminalized in Canada until 1969. ("There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," stated Pierre Trudeau.) There are countries where it is still illegal. I cannot understand the law's concerns with the gender a person likes.

Fast forward to now. The results of a study spanning one year and a half released by Egale Canada in 2011 showed that "more than one in five (21%) LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation." "74% of trans students, 55% of sexual minority students, and 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported having been verbally harassed about their gender expression." "Almost 10% of LGBTQ students reported having heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly." A poll released in 2011 showed that about one in ten of LGBTQ employees are discriminated on the job. In Canada, 30% of all suicides are taken by LGBTQ individuals. These are only a few statistics.

Why do we still have not only students bullying LGBTQ students but teachers too? Why is the share of suicides by LGBTQ individuals high and why are they committing suicide? Why are the statistics I mentioned above still true, that Canada has not progressed to fully uphold the human right to be any gender and any sexual orientation? No person should be fearful of abuse, harassment or death to be any gender or switch genders. No person be in fear feeling and living any sexual orientation whether it be liking the opposite gender, their own gender, both or still being unsure. No person should fear backlash for being queer. Unfortunately the LGBTQQI2SA community still has reason to fear.

We must work to end the hurt and hatred. We must not only keep advocating for fair treatment of all genders and sexual orientations, but be the fair treatment. We need to create a society of self-advocates and allies. We need to include LGBTTIQQSSA individuals in society. We need to feature LGBTQSSA individuals outside their stereotype. For example, about two years ago I tried reading a teen book which featured a gay character calling another male he just met 'honey.' Most I know would ask a person near their age out before calling them 'honey.' Instead of stereotypes of the person who 'acts girlish' as gay or the tomboy being lesbian, why don't we show individuals acting more as an Ellen Degeneres or a Jeremy Dias? Sitting on a talk show and asking others how their social lives are going. Running an organization. Or Bertrand Delanoe, the previous mayor of Paris in power for 12 years? The times that I've met LGBTQ individuals, they weren't stereotypes but persons.

We need to educate those young and old that it is acceptable to be LGBTQ. We need to educate that it is
wrong to be discriminative and act quickly and with strength on any discrimination we see. We need to point it out when we see it instead of dismissing it. Legislators, create policies which give LGBTQ individuals the same rights as your legislature's best-treated citizen and taxpayer. Employers, practice fair hiring practices. Teachers, stand to bullying the moment you see it and be an ally. Meanwhile your timetable may have a lunch break and a spare between your classes, yet it has no space to schedule discrimination. Bullies, end hurtful actions for you have no right to put down another person for their gender or sexual orientation. You have no right to put them down for anything, in fact - race, religion or disability!

Pride Flag at Toronto's City Hall
Let's not forget to include tackling the other pillars of discrimination while we're at it. Stand up, for the LGBTQ population comes from multiple races. Stand up because disability-diagnosed LGBTQ individuals experience additional discrimination and the combination of ableism with homophobia, transphobia or biphobia. Stand up because LGBTQ individuals have a range of religions and we live in a world still with religious discrimination in every country and border. Stand up because gender discrimination intertwines with homophobia, meaning that being lesbian and gay are treated differently. Stand up because discrimination isn't equal.

Now I address the LGBTTIQQ2SA community. If you are Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgendered, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning or Two-Spirited, remember that there is nothing wrong with you. You have every right to have a crush on any gender you feel or be any gender you feel, just as I have the right to be a woman and like guys, just as Barack Obama has the right to be a male and kiss Michelle Obama on the lips. You deserve the same rights as us, whether it be marriage, fair employee treatment, healthcare access, education, freedom and life.

So let's wave our Pride flags. Let's build inclusive polices. Let's be role models of inclusion ourselves. Support those in the same population as Bertrand Delanoe and Ellen Degeneres. If an inclusive society for LGBTQQI2SA individuals is a high-rise condominum, we've come far in the storeys we've built. Let's get out our blueprints and minds and become safety engineers, inspection engineers, construction engineers, architects, construction workers, maintenance workers and building code legislators.

- FA

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