We Need More than Pride

When I returned to work after the tragic events in Orlando on June 12th, one of the first questions asked of me was how I was feeling. As a member of LBGTQ2 community, I appreciated this sign of solidarity. I shared how the violence in Orlando challenged my own fragile sense of safety right here at home. And as I look forward to Calgary’s Pride Festival, Orlando’s tragedy has rekindled my belief that we need to be more vigilant about creating positive relationships with our LBGTQ2 community much closer to home.

Though much has changed since I first came out, I still weigh the potential consequences of being “out”. Despite advances in policy and shifting public attitudes, Canada’s LBGTQ2 community still faces discrimination and its devastating consequences. Here a just a few examples to consider:

Poverty– According to the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, “queer and trans people are over represented among low income Canadians: for example, in Ontario 71% of trans people have at least some college of university education, yet about 15% are living on $15,000 or less.”

Youth– According to the Homeless Hub, LBGTQ2 youth “are overrepresented in the homeless youth population,” possibly accounting for up 40% of homeless youth. Research suggests that there is a causal relationship between “coming out” in a home where homophobia or transphobia exists and youth homelessness. Evidence also suggests that “queer and trans homeless youth feel safer on the streets than in shelters” because the same discrimination that exists in their homes can also exist in shelters.

Two Spirited People– The National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) contends that the process of colonization has led to a heightened level discrimination towards two spirited people. NAHO states that “two-spirited people experience oppression and exclusion from three potential sources: their First Nations community because they are two-spirited, GLBT communities because they are First Nations and mainstream communities for both reasons.” As a result two-spirited people are more likely to experience violence in its various forms and are twice as likely to be assaulted as their heterosexual First Nations peers. These condition inevitably lead to “loss of trust, safety and self-worth, increased fear and isolation, internalized homophobia, depression, a sense of powerlessness, anger, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms.”

Mental Health– The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) indicates that members of the LBGTQ2 community continue to experience discrimination throughout their lifespan. Because of these factors, they are at greater risk for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, “depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm, and substance use”. Egale indicates that LBGTQ2 youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers; those who have been rejected by their families are eight more times likely to attempt suicide.

Workplaces– Ellard-Gray and Sasso report that 29.1% of LBGTQ2 employees across Canada have experienced discrimination in the workplace, significantly higher than the 2.9% reported by non-LBGTQ2 employees. Members of the LBGTQ2 community interviewed by Ellard-Gray and Sasso state that despite human rights legislation, they had been fired, passed over for promotions or other opportunities because of their identity. Each time members of the LBTGQ2 community disclose their identity in the workplace, they must consider whether this will lead to “physical, verbal, institutional aggression from coworkers, supervisors or clients”.

Services– Toppings indicates that while social service providers appear eager to attend LBGTQ2 training sessions, they “often have very little knowledge or practical skills in working with LGBT clients”. Consequently, “mainstream organizations have limited capacity to provide culturally relevant services to LGBT clients… services that acknowledge the lived experiences and cultural identities.” LBGTQ2 clients continue to experience “homophobic and heterosexist attitudes among service providers and a general lack of knowledge and skills in working with LGBT clients”. Deans concludes that service providers continue to deliver universally designed and culturally dominant approaches to solve specific culturally-bound issues.

Topping also reports some service providers often rely on their LGBTQ2 staff as default providers for LGBTQ2 clients. This presents several challenges like over-working and undercompensating their LBGTQ2 staff, losing the ability to serve LBGTQ2 clients if the staff member leaves, and the possibly negating other identities of a client and therefore access to appropriate services.

So how do we create positive change?

CHMA suggests that community-building with other members of the LBGTQ2 community, along with supportive families, friends, neighbourhoods and workplaces support the well-being of and positive mental health outcomes for individuals from the LBGTQ2 community, especially youth.

Toppings urges organizations to challenge their own beliefs and assumptions about the LBGTQ2 community, to use inclusive language and practices, and respond appropriately when clients come out. Instead of makeshift support strategies for LBGTQ2 clients, Topping encourages service providers to draft LBGTQ2 diversity policies with the aid of knowledgeable members of the LBGTQ2 community; to arrange awareness training for staff and volunteers and to reach out the LBGTQ2 community and create a welcoming environment.

Challenging discrimination and the lack of LBGTQ2 culturally competency within our community will continue to take our collective effort. Without our efforts, members of Calgary’s LBGTQ2 community may be excluded from experiencing the positive outcomes of Enough for All.

NAHO calls for education on the history and traditions of two spirited people, urging revitalization of cultural practices and teachings from two spirited people. NAHO challenges us to create safe spaces in our community; to involve Elders and youth in the reclamation of traditional values like inclusion; to stand by and stand up for two spirited people.

If there is enough for all and if our neighbor’s strength is our strength, then we need to ensure no one gets pushed to the margins of our society simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As we celebrate Pride, we need to make sure that every Calgarian experiences a strong, supportive and inclusive community every day of the year.

Darrell Howard, Community Facilitation & Engagement Specialist, Vibrant Communities Calgary


BC Poverty Reduction Coalition (n.d.). Poverty is a queer and trans issue [PDF]. Retrieved from http://bcpovertyreduction.ca/lgbtq/

Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans & queer identified people and mental health. Retrieved from Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario: https://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-people-and-mental-health/

Deans, B. (December 8, 2013). Cultural competence continuum [Video File]. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JNUxwHh7j8&feature=youtu.be

Egale Canadian Human Rights Trust (2015). What You Should Know About LGBTQ Youth Suicide in Canada. Retrieved from https://egale.ca/backgrounder-lgbtq-youth-suicide/

Ellard-Gray, A., Sasso, T. (n.d.). In and out: diverging perspectives of LBGTQ inclusion in the workplace [PDF]. Retrieved from The Canadian Centre for Cultural Diversity and Inclusion: http://www.ccdi.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/20150528-Report-LGBT-In-and-Out-Diverging-Perspectives-on-LGBT-Inclusion-in-the-Workplace-Final.pdf

National Aboriginal Health Organization (2012). Suicide prevention and two-spirited people [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.naho.ca/documents/fnc/english/2012_04_%20Guidebook_Suicide_Prevention.pdf

The Homeless Hub, 2016. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning and 2-spirited (LBGTQ2). Retrieved from The Homeless Hub: http://homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/population-specific/lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-transsexual-queer

Topping, P. (2009). Making services relevant for LBGT clients. Retrieved from Here to Help: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/lgbt-vol6/reducing-barriers

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