Northern advocates say homophobia still a present issue
With some upsetting recent headlines, it may be hard to stay positive if you're a member of the 2SLGBTQ community.
North Bay Pride member Jason Maclennan said it's disturbing to read stories like 'Will the Colorado gay club shooting be prosecuted as a hate crime' and 'FIFA banned World Cup players from wearing a ‘one love’ armband & here's why it's a shocker.'
"People are just fighting to be who they are,” Maclennan said.
“The community has struggled for many years and it just seems for the last while, we've been stepping backwards instead of forwards.”
He said such stories can have a trickle-down effect when it comes to those living in northern Ontario.
"It's quite difficult for people who are not out yet and who are seeing all this stuff and are not quite on the path to their true, authentic self," Maclennan said.
"As you know, many of the LGBTQ community have faced suicide -- we have a high suicide rate and part of it is being expected as who they are."
One of the things that have been hard for many to swallow was seeing the armband at the World Cup banned by FIFA.
While many like Maclennan are applauding Canada's stance against the decision, they're also questioning why the World Cup is being held in Qatar in the first place.
"What I'm finding really disturbing is that FIFA decided to take it to Qatar knowing full well what their human rights were like for the LGBTQ community," he said.
"We still deal with Qatar on a business level in Canada, which we shouldn't be. We should not be dealing with anybody, not Russia, not anyone that violates human rights and that's the way it should be."
"I get economics, I get all that stuff but there are ways of doing things without dealing with people who violate human rights," he added.
Maclennan is just one of many noticing an uptick in the rise of hate crimes or cases of homophobia. And the examples listed here, Maclennan said, are prime examples of homophobia.
"I think that there is still a lot of homophobia with the laws that we're passing," said Laur O'Gorman, of Fierte Sudbury Pride.
“But I think as we kind of get more and more acceptance of queer folks and trans people, there are folks that are pushing back even harder.”
While they say intolerance has become almost expected in some parts of the world, they're also seeing an increase in it from the far right.
"The election was just a few weeks ago and I didn't have any local candidates I could vote for who were queer, or even women,” they said.
“There were no women running in my local riding but there were three people who were opposed to my existence as a trans person.”
O'Gorman said in some ways, people are doing better in terms of acceptance.
"If I introduce myself with they/them pronouns, people are understanding that and know what that means and how to use it,” they said.
“I think in some ways things have been getting better but I also think that we have to be very careful to say that as things are getting better because there's also that really strong pushback.”
"For middle-class, white gay men things have probably gotten a lot better than 30 or 40 years ago, but not for everyone else so who’s being left out and how do we steer forward those conversations?" O'Gorman added.
Douglas Elliott is the vice-chair of Northern Ontario Pride.
Elliott said hate crimes in Canada are up 25 per cent against the LGBTQ community year-over-year and it's going to require action on everyone's part to ensure things improve.
"We're definitely in a period of backlash … that includes in Canada,” Elliott said.
'HOMOPHOBIA IS ALWAYS PRESENT'
“I've been a gay activist for a very long time and I've seen the ebbs and flows. Homophobia is always present but it tends to be more active from time-to-time and we're in one of those periods right now where homophobia is on the rise, it's more outspoken, it's more violent, it's more active in the legislatures around the world, including south of the border."
While things have improved in Canada, he said there is still a hard core that is very anti-gay that is present. He said it's going to take some time to make sure those attitudes have changed and remain unacceptable.
"Sports, for example, it's going to take a long time to change sports,” Elliott said.
“Certain sectors, like the police sub-sector, the Canadian Armed Forces, there are still a lot of places where homophobia is tolerated and it's going to take a lot of work to change that. We'll never eliminate homophobia, let's be realistic, it's never going to be eliminated. I would say homophobes are like cockroaches. All you can do is keep them under control. You can never eliminate them entirely.”
When asked about how he reacts to some of the headlines he's seeing around the world, Elliott said he does his best to remain positive.
"I don't think you can be a gay activist unless you're an optimist,” he said.
“Harvey Milk said years ago you have to have hope and it's absolutely correct. You have to have hope but you also have to have resilience because the fight for human rights for our community because the fight for human rights in our community is a marathon, not a sprint.”
"You can make enormous progress, but you can never afford to be asleep at the switch. You always have to be vigilant because the forces of homophobia are always lurking and waiting to rise up again and take away our rights," he added.
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