The Politics of Pride: Political Party Involvement

With Ottawa Capital Pride rapidly approaching there is discussion, especially among trans people and trans organizations as to whether or not the conservative group LGBTory should be allowed to participate in Ottawa Capital Pride this year. One of the primary points that is noticeable right away is that the “T” in LGBT has been turned into “Tory” and T for trans or transgender seems to be missing. Further, the ongoing record of both the federal Conservative party and the Ontario Progressive Conservative party with regard to trans and LGBT rights generally leaves a lot to be desired. Federally the Conservatives mostly voted against bill C–279 in the House of Commons and let it die in the Senate (See Happy Canada Day from the Canadian Senate). Provincially while many Conservatives supported Bill 13, Toby’s Act, in 2012, there is still significant opposition among conservatives to updating the sexual and physical health curriculum in Ontario. There was also significant opposition by the Conservatives to anti-bullying legislation and requiring schools in Ontario to allow GSAs (Gender and Sexual Diversity Alliances) in Catholic schools in the province. What does this mean for Pride events across the province, and across the country? Pride events are celebrations of what we have achieved as LGBTQ communities. Pride events are also political in that we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving equality on a practical day to day level for all who fall under the wide LGBTQ / Queer umbrella. As such, my personal opinion is that organizations who are participating in pride events ought to support some basic principles, and those who are explicitly part of political parties should be able to express what they are doing to advance LGBTQ rights in Canada. So what does that mean in our diverse mainstream political environment?

First and foremost, I think that pride organizations should follow the lead of Vancouver Pride and require organizations to sign on to the Trans Equality Now (Ten) Pledge in order to participate in the parade. So far as I know Ottawa Capital Pride does not require this, and I could see no policy documents on the web site relating to trans rights. They have, it is important to note, invited trans organizations to lead the parade behind the grand marshals this year thus promoting the visibility of trans people in Ottawa. At the same time, part of the mission statement is that it (Ottawa Capital Pride) “welcomes everyone to participate, celebrate, and experience being a part of the Rainbow Community.” I see requiring groups to sign on to this pledge as a way of expressing solidarity under the wide umbrella that they are referring to as the Rainbow Community. By not requiring some basic recognition of everyone’s rights we lose the aspects of Pride that are supposed to be inclusive and respectful of the needs of all those whom the organization claims to be representing. Further, the political aspect of Pride events gets watered down to the point of not being effective.

With regard to LGBTory, would they be openly willing to sign on to such a pledge? I don’t know. I have not heard anything, and I see nothing on their web site about specific ways in which they support LGBTQ people in Canada other than repeating Conservative party lines about economics and security policies. Furthermore, their Twitter feed is mostly about their events, and one attack on Andrea Houston for questioning their use of a single “T” in their name. With any political party, or group within a political party that claims to support LTBTQ people and participates in Pride events I want to know what they are doing to address issues that impact not only mainstream LGBT people who are comfortably middle class, but also those of us who are on the margins. What do they propose to do about the high rate of homelessness among LGBT Youth? What do they propose to do about ongoing discrimination that results in many trans people, especially trans women, not being able to find employment and thus living on less than $15,000 per year? What are they doing to promote changes to human rights legislation federally and in their own region where such amendments have not been made yet? What are they doing to promote changes to laws and regulations for name changes and gender marker designations on official documents? What are they doing to help ensure timely access to transition related health care that is affirming and respectful? With regard to LGBTory they were formed in May of 2015, this year. An election year. Make of this what you will.

With any group participating in Pride, beyond the political party groups, we should continue to ask these questions of them. Why are they there? Is it advertising for them? Are they working within their organizations to be more inclusive and affirming? Are they just there to garner support from LGBTQ people without doing anything beyond their participation and partnership? Is this another case of a group saying, “look we’re inclusive and supportive because we showed up for a parade” and then either doing nothing, or actively discriminating against LGBTQ people through their policies and procedures? It is incumbent on those of us who care about the politics of pride to look at what pride organizations are doing in their policies and events, as well as what those who participate via sponsorships and attending events are doing. When we see that they are not truly supporting everyone who falls under the wide banner and their struggles for dignity, rights, housing, and a livable income it is incumbent on us to call them out. Inclusion and affirmation isn’t just for those who are “respectable” in the eyes of mainstream society.

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