June marks the beginning of Pride Month. This month is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the impact and history of the LGTBQ+ community in Canada and around the world. It is also a time to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to eradicate ongoing systemic discriminatory practices. For example, almost 3 billion people live in countries where consensual same-sex activity is still criminalized. Although significant progress has been made, collective action is needed for us to realize a world where there is equal and inclusive opportunity for all.
Why Representation Matters
It is important to have meaningful representation and visibility of members of the LGTBQ+ community in the media and other institutions throughout society. When more LGTBQ+ people are represented and their identities are visible in a variety of establishments, this means they are actually being seen by society as opposed to being rendered invisible. This helps create an important social shift while being reflective of the actual diversity of the population. Mainstream visibility also helps to boost feelings of self-worth, image and dignity within the LGTBQ+ community.
The Importance of Inclusive Language
Language matters. It has the power to offer the validation and acknowledgement of identities as well as the power to deny it. Not only does language shape our interactions with people, it also shapes how we perceive the world around us and the people in it. For example, language can fuel health disparities due to stigma, social stress and discrimination as healthcare systems can lack the appropriate language and terminology required to work harmoniously with the LGTBQ+ community. This is why language is a powerful tool to demonstrate a commitment to creating authentic spaces that are welcoming for everyone.
Diversity in the Movement
There is also a need to push for inclusive action within the LGTBQ+ community. While this community has long been on the receiving end of discriminatory and oppressive practices, it is not immune to echoing the same types of intolerance. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who are also racial/ethnic minorities (LGBT-POC) are a multiply marginalized population subject to microaggressions associated with both racism and heterosexism. Research has shown that 51% of Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities have experienced racism from within the LGTBQ+ community and LGTBQ+ people of colour are 10% more likely to have experienced depression. This is why it is paramount for LGTBQ+ community members to reflect on their privilege and the effects of anti-Blackness and other forms of racism from both within and outside the community.
What can you do?
It is important to understand the deep historical significance of the LGTBQ+ movement. Everyone can play an important role in building an equal and inclusive world for all. Here are a few action areas to get you started:
- Take lead from the LGTBQ+ community, especially those from the Black and POC LGTBQ+ community;
- Take action when you witness discriminatory behaviour and work to understand how oppressive behaviour takes place;
- Use your privilege to give up power and make space for LGTBQ+ community members to take on leadership roles and positions of power;
- Acknowledge mistakes - no one is perfect. As you move along your journey there will always be more things to learn; and
- Remember that this will be a lifelong learning process that you will need to commit to for the rest of your life.