Pride is more than a parade and rainbow crosswalks. We need action and alliance

This column is the opinion of Anna Murphy (her), an advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ issues and women in Calgary. For more information on CBC Opinion Sectionplease consult the FAQs.

Imagine having to defend your very existence every day – not only that, but surviving in a world where individuals want to roll back your rights and even eradicate your existence through violence.

Imagine that the world you fight in remains filled with cultural and systemic barriers, misinformation, ignorance and violence.

This is the reality for transgender, Two-Spirit, non-binary, and gender-diverse people across Canada, often pushed to the fringes of marginalization, especially those who are Indigenous or people of color. Some people debate the existence of transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people, and have denied the presence of two-spirit identities since time immemorial.

Yet these individuals are resisting oppression and protesting this narrative, simply by entering their communities affirming and being exactly who they know themselves to be.

And here’s what they’re up against.

In a July letter to Canmore Pride, Valbella Gourmet Foods President Jeff von Rotz wrote, “…you couldn’t pay me enough to sponsor anything to do with transgenders caring for children (sic) , please keep these sick people away from the children of this community.”

During a recent debate in Edmonton, Brian Jean, MP and UCP leadership candidate, said: “Sex shouldn’t be taught in schools, biology only, I don’t believe people who went through puberty as men should compete with women.” He repeated this rhetoric in a message to party members this week.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what many 2SLGBTQIA+ people face on a daily basis. Statistics Canada reported a 39% increase in hate crimes targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation in Alberta last year, and that’s just the crimes reported to police.

Don’t fight alone

This is the time for everyone to step up and speak out, especially political and cultural leaders, and all those in positions of power and influence. We must ensure that hatred and intolerance have no place in our communities.

Now more than ever, the transgender community especially needs allies, because with allies, we don’t fight our battles alone. We must recognize covenant as a verb and not as a noun. It requires using our identity, power and privilege to influence meaningful change – doing the work of being present, continually learning, growing and showing up for those who need us.

The objective of the allies must remain the achievement of tangible and significant results.

A rally at the first Calgary Pride festival in 1990. Three decades later, Pride remains a protest, writes Anna Murphy. (Radio Canada Archives)

Calgary Pride is now celebrating its 33rd year. Pride is a time of amplification, celebration and education.

Pride is a time to reflect and acknowledge the courage and sacrifice made by the Black and Latina transgender women who started the movement. Pride is a manifestation and a time when we recognize the struggles, sacrifices, courage, accomplishments and milestones of those who have and continue to fight for equity within our communities.

Pride goes beyond a parade. Our ally must reach higher than the raising of a flag, outlast and be bolder than the rainbow paint of crosswalks.

Pride is a movement – movements require action. Actions should be amplified more than words or platitudes.

It is this spirit that led to Calgary Pride’s decision to request that some who applied to participate in the parade take time to reflect on their actions, rather than begin their ally journey along the parade route. This included the United Conservatives, who, despite being welcomed at other Pride events, were turned away from the parade this year as a direct result of their actions – such as the weakening of rules regarding gay alliances (GSA) schools – and in many circumstances, inaction.

We must recognize that the parade is not an opportunity for hollow photo ops and pink dollar marketing, but rather continues to be a protest and is an opportunity for 2SLGBTQIA+ and their allies to move forward for change.

Across the political spectrum and at all levels, we have seen leaders doing this work as champions of human rights and earning their place to walk alongside our communities.

Former Premier Alison Redford, a Progressive Conservative, put her ally into action when she hoisted the Pride Flag over the Alberta Legislative Assembly and restored funding for the affirmation surgery program kind of Alberta. Former NDP premier Rachel Notley’s GSA policy brought a bailout policy for students.

Both the City Council and Parliament have banned the torturous practices of conversion therapy. Mayor Jyoti Gondek officially recognized and supported Transgender Awareness Day (March 31) and Remembrance Day (November 20). And last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s first 2SLGBTQIA+ Action Plan with $100 million in funding.

The change we need

Much remains to be done, such as expanding access to quality health care for all Canadians of diverse gender identities.

The struggle for 2SLGBTQIA+ equity is a movement bigger than any individual. Together, we must commit to bringing about tangible and meaningful change, and collectively move forward to eradicate stigma and dehumanization, fetishization and demonization – blazing a trail that fosters spaces and builds communities where all can see their future as an achievable and affirmed reality.

We know what happens when we allow hatred and intolerance to take root. We must not shy away from or acquiesce in actions that embolden and reinforce a narrative that affirms the existence and lives of 2SLGBTQIA+ people.

Our rights are not now – and never will be – open to debate or challenge.

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