Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Back on November 8, 2016, I was made fun of for being so upset at how the election in the US turned out. We live in Canada, after all. That wasn't our election, so why did I care so much?
A female in a leadership position (that is all I will say) even tried to console me (if you can believe it) by saying that Hilary Clinton could never have handled being President because she was too emotional, as evidenced by her refusal to make a concession speech the night of the election -- and, you know, the fact that she’s a woman.
Obama wasn't perfect, we know that. But at least when he and his beautiful family were in the White House, things genuinely felt like they were getting better.
For some time now, "it gets better" has been a powerful slogan inspiring resilience within the L.G.B.T.Q.Q.I.P.2S.A.A. movement. The phrase is even repeated in the lyrics of the theme song for Queer Eye on Netflix, which has become a bit of a queer anthem.
Look at the state of the world since the 45th President of the United States was elected in late 2016. Can we definitively say that 'things keep getting better'?
That is why I was upset in 2016 and why I continue to be upset while 45 is still in office. Before someone points to United States vs. Canada, discrimination against Trans people happens in Canada too. Also, until LGBTQ+ rights are protected around the globe, the fight is not over.
And things have not only gotten worse for those in the LGBTQ+ community. We in the community know that Trans individuals experience more violence than the rest of us, even more so when they are BIPOC. We've known this. This Pride Month, I have been so proud to see examples of the LGBTQ+ community passing the mic to the BIPOC among us so that their voices can be amplified at this crucial moment in the fight against racism. I’m happy to see how far we’ve come and more importantly where we are going, particularly in regard to activism calling for the defunding of police.
That said, I can’t help but think about how it wasn’t that long ago that our community was divided over Black Lives Matter Toronto’s peaceful demonstration during the Toronto Pride Parade back in 2016. The parade was halted for no more than a half hour and yet was widely referred to as a ‘hijacking’. BLM's demand to bar Police floats and uniformed police officers from marching in the parade is still a contentious issue.
“In October 2018, Pride Toronto made the announcement that Toronto Police had been granted permission to march in the 2019 Pride parade. However, three months later Pride Toronto members reversed that position when they voted 163-161 to not allow uniformed officers in the 2019 parade.”
I’ll admit, back in 2016 and for a shamefully long time after that, I was on the fence on this issue. Despite the fact that I am now in the business of producing mass gathering events, I have been and continue to be very anxious in large crowds. When it came to participating in Pride celebrations, that anxiety grew as I feared that radical homophobes would seize the opportunity to place a target on our community. Back in 2016, the presence of police at Pride was comforting to me as I naively (and wrongly) assumed that police existed to protect civilians from harm. I saw the police support of Pride, the revealing of the Church Street Mural, as evidence that the past was in the past and that the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and the police was finally in a period of reconciliation.
On the other hand, BIPOC and/or Trans individuals were expressing that they were being excluded from Pride celebrations because of the inclusion of police in uniform.
My position of privilege as a cis-gendered, white person who had never experienced, witnessed or even heard of police brutality affecting anyone I knew personally prevented me from truly listening to BLM when they took the opportunity as Honoured Guests to remind everyone that the first Pride was a protest started by a Trans Woman of Colour in response to violent police raids of LGBTQ+ spaces and how nearly 50 years later, police continue to harass Transgender and BIPOC individuals.
All this to say that BIPOC have been telling their truth, reminding us of what Pride is about for some time now and it seems that only now their message is finally starting to sink in. The whole world has changed in the months since the pandemic hit, with the most important pandemic coming to light within the last month or so when a police officer murdered a Black man on the street in the middle of the day, which just happened to be caught on film.
We should not have needed to see that video to believe BIPOC.
Since the news about George Floyd's death broke, I have not been silent. I have taken action in a variety of ways and continue to do so. That crowd anxiety is still very real, so it's unlikely you will see me in the streets but there are other ways to protest. At this time, I feel that it is important to put into my own words where I stand and what actions I have been taking and vow to take from that moment on. By defining my position, my goal is to give myself a point of reference when I lose my direction and to allow those around me to remind me of what I believe if I should ever waver. I am not perfect, I am still learning. If that's you, too, I hope we can keep working on being better, together.
'No matter how anti-racist I think I am, I still have hidden biases that I need to examine. It is my responsibility to check myself daily for any stereotypes, prejudice and, ultimately discrimination that influences my point of view and the actions I take.'*
I recognize that I do not need to look south of the border for examples of systemic racism. I do not need to look south of the border for examples of police brutality being disproportionally inflicted upon BIPOC. These things are and have been happening in Canada, in Toronto, in my own community.
It is not enough to not be racist; I must be anti-racist. I commit to calling out prejudice and discrimination when I see it, when I hear it and when I hear of it. I commit to fighting against racism — the race-motivated discrimination and violence — I know that BIPOC experience even when the camera isn’t pointed their way. I take in upon myself to get re-educated about all that the system has erased from our history books and invite others to learn with me. In doing so, I hope to take some the burden off of those who have been telling their truth for millennia only to be silenced for equally long.
As a proud feminist and member of LGBTQ+ community, I am grateful for all who have fought for equal rights before I was even born and up to this very day. The fight is not over, and it won’t be unless we work together. By checking my privileged, my hidden biases, I am growing toward understanding the importance of intersectionality. I know where I have failed in the past and how I can continue to improve. Though I have only identified by 2-3 of the letters in the acronym, I now know that my fight for equality is incomplete unless it uplifts every other letter, each representing countless individuals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. L.G.B.T.Q.Q.I.P.2S.A.A. stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous and asexual.
We know what we are fighting for and who/what we are fighting against. Spoiler alert: it’s not each other. infighting only serves to distract us and further uphold the status quo that holds us down. My pride flag has Black and Brown stripes. My pride flag places emphasis on the White/Pink/Blue. Their houses are on fire and we need to allocate more resources toward getting them out safely, rebuilding, and protecting their neighbourhoods from arsonists.
When it comes to change-making, I now know that it is not enough to cast my ballot. I must vote with my dollar, my patronage, my time. I must vote with my likes, my views, my shares. I must poke and prod policy makers into making the right decisions, or make sure they’re no longer in a position to influence policy. I must call out my heroes and hold them accountable lest they no longer be considered heroes of mine. I must make way for BIPOC and L.G.B.T.Q.Q.I.P.2S.A.A. individuals and artists in my industry. I must pass the mic and I must listen.
* The first phrase of this statement came across my social feed and I could not improve upon those words. I don't know who the original author is, but this inspired me to elaborate on what I personally believe.