Reflections from a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community who was given a second chance…
By Elton McDuffus
Brought to you by Fido
Click here to read this article in French/Cliquez ici pour lire l’article en français
LGBT History Month – or Rainbow History Month, as I personally dub it – is dedicated to recognizing important moments in the history of LGBTQ2S+ people’s lives. The month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history highlights the roles of LGBTQ2S+ people in observing, advocating, creating and promoting a just society for all. It has taken place every October since it was created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri.
Significant days in LGBT History Month include Spirit Day on October 20 (which was started by Canadian Brittany McMillan), National Coming Out Day on October 11 and, south of the border, the commemoration of the First March on Washington, DC, which took place on October 14, 1979.
I take pride in celebrating each of these events every year, and consciously promote them, educating and encouraging my friends and co-workers to do the same…even if it’s simply watching an LGBTQ2S+-themed movie or wearing the colour purple for Spirit Day.
Some might ask why these are so important to me and why I have such a drive to bring awareness and visibility to this month and its events. I grew up in Jamaica, a very decorated and celebrated place for its food, weather, track and field, people, music, beaches and overall culture. However, as a gay man, I was never celebrated for simply being ME. I was often chastised by people – both strangers and those who knew me – if and when I did not fit into the masculine or patriarchal society that country is built on. Imagine being bullied and teased, attacked and harassed for just being perceived to be gay, let alone confirming and celebrating such an identity.
I was constantly attacked, harassed and threatened because I was a gay man in a country that continues to criminalize, with its Buggery Law, gay men who choose to engage in same-sex intimacy. This further supports the culture that hurts and threatens and even murders LGBTQ2S+ people. And that is why I had to flee and seek refuge in Canada for a safe life.
Thanks to the Rainbow Railroad, I was given a second chance at life and a second chance to celebrate MYSELF. I can now say who I am without fear, without looking over my shoulder, without suffering moments of PTSD. I am celebrated, I am loved, and I can enjoy this newfound freedom to be, to be happy, just being LGBTQ2S+ (GAY)!
I often feel guilty about having such a level of freedom and comfortability to be ME. I have lost so many friends to violent attacks because of their sexuality, and my heart breaks when I think about my slain friends. I wish they were here with me to celebrate being free, unashamed to express their creative side and able to live a safe and long life.
Life in Canada is amazing: hence my drive to continue to be visible, celebrating LGBT History Month and promoting the importance of LGBTQ2S+ rights. In a way it’s odd that, in 2021, we should still have to celebrate a special month – as every day should be LGBTQ2S+ Day – but until then, I look forward to Pride Month, LGBT History Month and other events that celebrate the lives and freedom of LGBTQ2S+ people’s lives.
ELTON MCDUFFUS is a purpose-driven, creative fashion blogger and an advocate for social justice and change. Born to Jamaican soil, he uses his talents to attend to the vulnerable populations; people affected by homelessness, mental health concerns and addictions. He’s passionate about life, travelling and simply dressing up.