As we speak, there are thousands of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender folks from across the world who are not able to spend Christmas with their families this year. They have been beaten, cursed at and made to feel like they do not belong, leading them to say goodbye to their family and friends.
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.
If it is not right to host Islamophobic or white supremacist speakers, then it is not right to host Muslim supremacist, homophobic and transphobic speakers. Indeed, all zulm (oppression) is connected. Muslims overwhelmingly condemn ISIS. However, according to Muslim human rights activist, Shafiqah Othman Hamza, it is not enough to quote Qur'anic verses on peace while ignoring the systemic persecution and discrimination of minorities.
A vicious cycle of hate seems to have been engendered where hatred of the West feeds the hatred of Islam. The way out of this hate is by looking within instead of pointing fingers at others. Some people do not care for such a nuanced understanding. They look for simplistic answers to complex problems.
After being chastised by my own country of birth for coming out as a lesbian in April of this year and speaking out against the discrimination and harassment I had endured, I began to think that our Caribbean LGBTQ community would simply have to crawl back into our holes of pain and isolation and with muzzles over our mouths. That was until Marlon James!
How can Muslim LGBT lead the dialogue if a majority amongst them segregate their lives from conservative spaces? The importance of dialogue within conservative Muslim communities cannot be over-emphasized. Such a dialogue will have to be part of a much-needed internal critique, for outside solutions may be rejected as anti-Muslim bigotry.
The month of Pride is a time for LGBTQ2S individuals to not only say who we are; but to also celebrate and be proud of who we are. Pride month is meant to remind us that we are real and that we matter, however, not all members of our community are seen; not all are celebrated; many are silenced and marginalized, made to feel that they are not real and that they do not belong.
A cabinet minister who said something racist or homophobic would almost certainly be fired. The same should hold true for a shadow cabinet member. If the Conservatives at Queen's Park are serious about being a queer-friendly party, symbolism and slacktivism will not cut it. They should discipline MPP Monte McNaughton for his repeated homophobia, and for breaking caucus policy, which is ostensibly in favour of the new sex-ed curriculum. It is important to note that McNaughton is no backbencher; he has the critic portfolio of international trade. He should be striped of his critic portfolio.
On March 11, 2015, Toronto City Council finally approved funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth transitional housing. Although I am extremely disappointed that LGBTQ2S youth homelessness has been inadequately addressed for so many years, I am grateful that there is more understanding and awareness of this social justice crisis. I am also grateful that more organizations are now committed to developing campaigns and programs for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
This Sunday, a Yellow Cab driver in Edmonton left a drag queen stranded in below freezing temperature at 2 a.m. Realizing that his customer sat in the cab dressed in drag, the driver bluntly told him to "get out." The taxi company has fired the cab driver. But should the cab driver lose his job over this incident? What if he is merely a product of the culture shaped by fear based morality that teaches hate towards the LGBTQ community? Would firing him stem homophobia or fuel it?
Recently, Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman proposed Bill 202 that would allow students to start a Gay Straight Alliance club in their schools. However, Alberta Premier Jim Prentice wants to counter the "unfair and unbalanced approach" of Bill 202. For Canada's LGBTQ youth, whose suicide statistics are startlingly high, GSAs may make a difference between life and death. Indeed, the cardinal principle of many religions is to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. If we cannot show grace for our LGBTQ neighbours and families, are we really living up to that hallowed principle of our own faiths?
For a majority of Torontonians, Pride is just another big-city party. But beyond the booze and the naked leathermen, Pride is an inherently political celebration of freedom -- for LGBTQ people just like me to be who we are without fearing we'll be the target of yet another verbal assault or hate crime. I wake up every day knowing my traditional Italian family will never accept me, watch me walk down the aisle or even meet my future wife. But all those fears seem to slip away when I'm surrounded by a community of people who know the same fear and sense of injustice I do. And when we are banded together, marching down Yonge Street with flags and Super Soakers, we are practically invincible.
Historically, prejudice of any kind could be freely expressed with few repercussions (emotional, legal, or otherwise) so long as there was a reasonable justification. Religion has often served as the justification, and has therefore facilitated an array of prejudice, from racism to sexism to homophobia. Over time, the use of religious beliefs to justify prejudice has tended to decline, but still persists -- especially when it comes to homosexuality.
You do have the freedom to say what you want. You don't have the freedom to escape the fallout from your words. When you are a bigot -- and I use the word without malice -- you are trying to block another human being from having the same rights you have. You can feel however you want to feel. There is nothing wrong with your religious or philosophical beliefs, and in our society, you are free to practice them and believe what you wish. But freedom of speech does not carry a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Growing up gay and brown in the suburbs was rough. I came really close to flying to freedom towards the end of my senior year of high school when I drove off a cliff near my home. I thought it would be better than the stress of exams and the alienation I felt from being the only gay kid in the neighbourhood.