Pride is a Protest: Our 2023 Statement on 2SLGBTQ+ health

Pride is a protest. Pride is resistance. And Pride Month 2023 has been a huge reminder that we cannot take the safety of 2SLGBTQ+ bodies, minds and spirits for granted in our societies. We’ve seen it in the chilling effects of anti-gay and anti-trans laws being passed in the United States, and the resulting impacts on threats of violence at Pride events across the U.S. We’ve seen it in the lack of access to safe healthcare for transgender people around the world, due to discrimination. And we have seen it here in Canada, too, with hate spilling over in public spaces via intimidation tactics, even as access to transgender care is impacted by cuts to virtual health care budgets.

Violence and other forms of queer-bashing, including the rhetoric from popular bigoted politicians and voter bases alike in Canada, the United States and around the world is spreading ideology that signals violence is OK to large political groups. Their push for laws to criminalize drag shows and other forms of queer expression are designed to encourage and propagate erasure of anyone and anything that doesn’t fit with narrow and nihilistic worldviews of straight, heteronormative supremacy. This is across all kinds of spheres of life – policy, pop culture, social media, businesses and Pride festivities themselves.

At the Alliance for Healthier Communities, as advocates for 2SLGBTQ+ health, we know 2SLGBTQ+ rights are tenuous and action is needed to protect them. It’s time to push back against hate and systemic discrimination. The original Pride celebration’s intersectional roots were founded by Black queer women and transgendered people fighting for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Early Pride celebrations raised awareness and helped to change minds and policy, but they also sought to more widely disrupt white supremacy, straight supremacy, and the continued bigotry built into cis, straight-focused political cultures and violent expressions of those cultures, here and around the world.

2SLGBTQ+ people who face poverty, intergenerational trauma, racism, and mental health issues, face disproportionate barriers and levels of oppression. When racism and homophobia intersect, either on the street or in systems and policy, we know these impacts are devastating to people’s lives, increasing the risk of violence, poor health and early death. No one should fear for their life or health because of who they are or who they love.

Leaders and decision-makers who stand still in the current environment will cultivate deadly conditions and environments for 2SLGBTQ+ people. The Alliance and our members stand firmly with our allies across community health, including in Indigenous and Black health, to push back against hate, ignorance, and misinformation used to garner support of the hateful. In rural areas, many of which lack robust resources for 2SLGBTQ+ health, issues remain invisible without support for community leadership. We will not stand idly aside as conditions worsen, as more queer people are attacked in our streets, in our parks, in their homes, and by our institutions and their apathy.

It's why Alliance members across Ontario are focused on initiatives to expand access to safe, effective and proven medical care. In 2019, we recognized Quest CHC in St. Catharines for its Rainbow Niagara LGBTQ+ Services. In 2022, Windsor region was awarded for its innovation to expand access to the Southwestern Ontario Youth Gender Diversity Clinic. Since expanding this care in the community health sector alone isn’t enough to meet all the needs, Alliance members are now also working to train medical residents and others in best practices and clinical guidelines for trans health care in Ottawa. Other programs, such as the virtual mental health service Counselling Connect, offer 2SLGBTQ+ specific services.

As Pride Month draws to a close, we want to reflect on the actions we’ll all need to engage in ahead. We are reminding ourselves and each other that we have a responsibility to be intolerant of intolerance. We also have a responsibility to hold our leaders in Canada and Ontario to high standards that reflect that 2SLGTBQ+ rights are human rights. As 2SLGBTQ+ activists in Hamilton said recently, there is “More to Pride than a celebration”. There has to be, because there are many lives at stake still. Even one life lost is too many. We must remember that basic fact as we answer brazen intolerance and ignorance with the bright lights of education, care, love and tolerance.

Thursday, June 29, 2023