What can Canadians do to be better 2SLGBTQ+ allies?

By Liza Yuzda and Hana Mae Nassar

Hundreds of anti-2SLGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the U.S. so far, according to a Canadian expert in sexual and gender minorities, who says people on this side of the border can’t stay quiet.

With that number expected to grow, Kristopher Wells, the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University in Edmonton, says Canadians need to step up.

“What we’ve seen in the United States, with over 450 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced within the past couple of years, is part of this larger global tide of populism, far-right extremism, that we see taking root,” Wells told CityNews, adding hate doesn’t stop at the border and the battle to remove rights is being felt in Canada too.

“We often see LGBT equality moving backwards instead of forwards and there’s been a lot of concern here in Canada, that we’re not immune to these global winds of hate.”

He points to various protests across Canada against drag story time events and even books with same-sex couples “being banned or challenged in school libraries” as just some of the recent examples of intolerance in this community.

“I think the big concern here in Canada is the importance of speaking out so that we don’t allow this kind of protest and this kind of hatred to turn into electoral, legislative rollbacks,” Wells said.

While Wells notes populist and far-right sentiments have been growing globally for the past couple of years, the U.S. fanned the flames further nearly nine months ago when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, opening the door to abortion bans across the country.

Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision

Thousands of protesters march around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision Friday, June 24, 2022, in Phoenix. The Supreme Court in June 2022 stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans’ lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The decision forced many to examine their own situations locally, with Canadians warned not to take freedoms for granted.

Wells says though Canada has “moved quite far in terms of legislative equality,” social equality continues to lag.

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“We still see incredible homo-, bi-, transphobia come from some faith communities, some political parties. We’re no stranger to this controversy right now in the National Hockey League (NHL) for example. Thankfully, those who object are in the minority, but we’re learning there is an audience and people are feeling more emboldened to speak out and to support discrimination against very vulnerable minority communities,” he said.

Taking action

With pressure mounting for action, Wells says there are a few things people can do to be better allies.

One is to show up as an ally, another is to speak out against hate and discrimination, and a third is to host events.

“If a drag queen story time is being protested in your community, host more drag queen story times. This is really important, I think, for affirming faith communities to show this is not a religious issue, that in fact faith can be very inclusive, welcoming, affirming, and supportive. I think we need to counter that tired, old narrative that all faith communities condemn or do not support 2SLGBTQ people,” Wells said.

A drag queen storytime event at the Coquitlam Library was met with protests today. (CityNews/Angela Bower)

Supporters of a drag queen story time event at the Coquitlam Library showed up to speak out against protesters on Jan. 14, 2023. (Angela Bower, CityNews)

Another crucial step, he adds, is to vote.

“If you’re a 2SLGBTQ community member, consider running for office, run for your school board. It’s important that we’re visible and that we’re part of the democratic, elected process. It’s very hard to discriminate against somebody when they’re sitting across the table from you, or when they’re in the room when you’re debating and discussing policy. I think the lessons we can learn from the rest of the world is how important it is to vote.”

In addition to being involved, Wells says it’s also key to know where your elected leaders and candidates stand when it comes to 2SLGBTQ+ issues.

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