Dara Parker, Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada

Dara Parker, Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada
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good morning everyone it is a pleasure to be here today and I appreciate the opportunity to be included on a panel and Reconciliation in part because our movement is noise included when you think about the word reconciliation and in part because I just love talking about all things queer which is convenient because I get paid to be gay so quick language note I'm gonna be using queer as an umbrella term to refer to anyone with a non normative sexual orientation or gender identity so what you might more commonly know as the gay lesbian bi trans community but also including two-spirited folks asexual folks the reason I use this is because I see it as more philosophically inclusive and also when you talk about queer folks a thousand times a day like I do it becomes much more pragmatic I want to start by recognizing that Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to queer rights this is especially important in a world where being queer is still a criminal act in 76 countries and punishable by death in five countries in fact in the past two weeks homophobic alleged legislation has been further strengthened in Nigeria and Uganda and Sochi remains high on the radar as just this week the first arrests took place under the new gay propaganda law so while I recognize the privilege of being a queer Canadian I'm also constantly surprised by those who feel like this work is done as if the legal recognition of same-sex marriage was a panacea for homophobia and transphobia which is adorably optimistic and grossly untrue the history of legal and social exclusion of the queer community has a much lengthier history than that of being legally protected an often changing legislation is only the front end of a much longer cultural shift in attitudes and behavior and I looked at the civil rights movement in the US as an example despite having acquired the right to vote african-americans continue to be subject to intense racism and of course we continue to live in a racist culture in Canada unless anyone wants to challenge that notion which I don't think this audience will and yet the suggestion that we live in a post homophobic era a suggestion that I typically hear from well-meaning urban based progressive allies who assume that the battle has been fought in one continues to be made on a regular basis I rarely hear this from queer folks and I think that in order to understand the discrimination that continues to take place today it's important to take a look at our very recent history same-sex marriage was only one of many hard-fought rights obtained by our community after all it was less than 50 years ago that being gay in Canada was still a criminal act and that's barely two generations and it wasn't until 1978 that homosexuals were removed as an admissible admit agreat immigration class and it wasn't until 1996 which was 11 years after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted that sexual orientation was added to the federal Human Rights Act so while in DC it's true that last year we celebrated 10 years of same-sex marriage Recognition that's only one page in the history of our story of exclusion and the importance of our recent history especially in a rapidly changing environment for queer rights can't be understated what queer people experienced was a systematic exclusion devaluing and stained section violence which has left incredibly deep wounds in our community and this is especially true for our older adults who lived through being labeled mentally ill criminal who survived being discarded from their families their typically their bio families workplaces who are attacked by police and bar raids and who were often humiliated just for the way they walked or moved their hands in an open space for these members of our community there is a residual trauma from their experiences of physical and emotional violence and as a younger queer woman in Canada I want to acknowledge all the work the my elders did in paving the way so that I can be here with my partner today and feel relatively safe but this physical and emotional violence is true also the millions of gay men who lived through the height of the hiv/aids crisis 80s and 90s when there was a distinctive silence on the part of our government because it was largely seen as a gay disease and while we're here because of there are many commonalities among the communities being discussed today in this beautiful tapestry of Canadian oppression there are a number of unique aspects to the queer rights movement while many social change movements are driven by community organizing which also played an important role in the queer rights movement ultimately all of our rights and freedoms were fought for and achieved through litigation and let me remind folks that in the 80s it was kicking and screaming that we dragged the government to court when they were loathe to have anything to do with our community another unique aspect of the discrimination inflicted upon the queer community is that queer folks are not always visible in the same way that ethno-cultural communities are and while people often make assumption is about who's gay or trans based on our body language our presentation our sexual orientation and gender identity is more often than not invisible and this invisibility has various implications some positive that at times were protected from violence but many negative including that our collective voice has often been closeted it's also unique that the legal and social discrimination experienced by the queer community was typically inflicted upon individuals not family units and while other communities here today experienced discrimination as a unit crew people were and are too often disowned by their bio families after coming out and without an immediate and visible bounded community queer people are at risk of being further isolated in their struggle but let me be clear in articulating these differences my intention is not to play oppression Olympics or to suggest any kind of more or less negative experience rather I want to highlight that like ethno-cultural communities the queer rights movement is one of intersectionality in fact whether people realized it or not at the time we were also subject to the Chinese head tax we were parts of residential schools and were members of the Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust our intersection of identities provides shared experiences across the struggle of reconciliation and our identities permeate the boundaries of these communities and unfortunately the struggles / zest for many queer folks homophobic and transphobic attitudes continue to be pervasive in our everyday lives and so a quick recap for those who haven't been paying attention we still live in an incredibly heteronormative world a gender world that manifests itself in the language we use in the clothes we wear the tone of our voice the activities we participated all of these factors informed by how we understand traditional gender roles and so just a quick reminder boys wear blue play with trucks don't cry like sports and beer and being in charge of the world girls wear pink play with dolls cry at the drop of a hat love fashion and cocktails and nurturing those who are running the world so while feminism has made progress in challenging these narratives our culturally informed understanding of gender is deeply intertwined with our understanding of sexuality which means that there's still an outcry when a young boy wears a pink shirt to school in Nova Scotia when a tough NBA superstar comes out in 2013 as the first openly gay athlete still playing in his career or why I still haven't told my grandmother who lives across the country and isn't doing very well that my partner whom I live with is a woman at times in my safe little queer bubble working for a queer organization with queer friends it's easy to forget that I'm still nervous about telling everyone Who I am for fear of repercussions and that's what homophobia looks like which is to say nothing of the experience of being trans identified well lesbian gay and bi folks have made huge strides the trans right movement is still 20 years behind with regards to awareness education and policy that protects values and supports trans lives and I often think that most of us are unaware of exactly how many trans folks exist in the world in the same way that 50 years ago we kind of knew one quirky neighbor down the street that we suspected may be gay and now today we know that gay comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes and I think there's a lot more of us than everyone knew similarly I suspect that you'd be surprised to hear that trans youth group facilitated in Delta has over 40 participants just in Delta just for youth the stats on trans health paint an alarming picture 40% of trans youth attempt suicide trans folks are disproportionately represented on the street suffer from regular employment discrimination and perhaps most importantly continue to fight policy battles that directly impact their health and safety while the BC Ministry of Health has been supporting sex reassignment surgery for over 20 years it remains chronically underfunded and many members of the community spend years on wait lists to access necessary surgery trans folk continue to fight to change gender markers on documents like licenses and passports to safely participate in gendered activities like sports and to access public spaces like washrooms which is to say nothing of a stigma and dignity that the trans community is subject to on a regular basis and just in case we find ourselves thinking we're above this just remember the last time that you were in a space where you saw someone whose gender you couldn't identify and how hard you stared at them trying to figure it out and ultimately how badly you wanted to know their gender how it made it slightly uncomfortable when you couldn't figure out what it was and I too have been in this experience and I wonder why why does that matter to me so much because we still live in a world where challenging gender norms is an act of resistance so what have reconciliation last week among my staff I took a highly informal unscientific poll to see who among us thought the Canadian government should offer an apology to the queer community because we don't have one for the injustice is suffered at our at their hands and my staff was fairly young provided a unanimous yes which is interesting to me because I don't hear a lot of talk in our community about reconciliation but there's no doubt that the Canadian government enacted harmful legislation that has deeply scarred our community so while I'm intrigued by the idea of reconciliation I'm also conscious that we're still very much working on a world where all queer people are included and free from discrimination so maybe one more a little closer to that go we can receive our apology thank you you

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