The same wind that blows in toxic fumes of hatred also cleans the air and brings the fragrance of positive change…
By Luis Augusto Nobre
Our world has been in constant change since its creation, and the same process happens with human beings. The past 100 years have been so important to all of us for different reasons and aspects. Technology, human rights, science, education, transportation, diversity and inclusion.… But there is something weird going on. The air has become a mixture of sweet smells and toxic ingredients: almost impossible to not inhale, to not get intoxicated. It is becoming so dense that you can almost touch it. Or worse: it can touch and harm you.
I don’t know how you are feeling in relation to this noxious air surrounding us, but I am not happy in the same way that I am not sad. I want to celebrate all the advances at the same time that I want to cry or have strong reactions because of all the inequity, violence and setbacks. In spite of all the progress I have witnessed personally and all that has been won over the past years for queer people, I always have this feeling that we are losing.
Constantly, I am looking back to see when and where the winds have changed and we started to miss opportunities. Or maybe I’m being naive to believe in optical illusions. The status quo hasn’t changed at all, keeping us in invisible bubbles to simulate inclusion when we are experiencing integration instead. Those bubbles have directed queer communities to be in the spotlight for different reasons, helping us to occupy so many spaces and to access rights previously denied to us here in Canada and worldwide.
The ban on conversion therapy in Canada was a big win for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and really recharged our batteries. However, our communities need more and to work together to stop acts of violence against trans folks – including negative actions and behaviours from other members within the big acronym umbrella.
I might be repetitive, but what’s more repetitive is the constant violence and hateful campaigns addressing trans folks. In our neighbour to the south, several states have passed laws and acts to “protect” people that are actually putting many trans and nonbinary kids at risk. Other states are working against queer communities in general. They want to block the constitutional right to exist, to be who we are. Specific trans and queer rights are the target of an orchestrated movement. Who will protect us?
Some European countries are dedicated to being a “free zone” for queer people despite the hypocrisy of some of their leaders. Even the most progressive countries are not immune. A friend of mine was assaulted and physically attacked in the streets of Amsterdam, one of the most LGBTQIA-friendly cities in the world. Cases like that are popping up around the world. And rhetorically, I ask myself: is there any safe place to go?
The toxic air is spreading fast and harming our rights to exist. For sure it has arrived in Canada, and lawmakers might get contaminated. It is why I am worried that the positive changes won’t last long. Many statistical reports show that we still have a lot to do and demonstrate the need to advance more. Workplace inclusion could be a nice example. Fifty per cent of trans people make less than $30,000 per year and often experience discrimination when trying to secure a job or advance in their careers. Bisexual women meet even more challenges and barriers, as they earn less than half of the median annual earnings for heterosexual men. If we check other studies showing the intersectionality aspects of demographics, the figures will indicate a tougher reality.
On the other hand, I should remind myself, and you too, that the wind spreading toxicity is the same wind that cleans the air and brings the fragrance of positive changes. Recent advances in Canadian legislation (like the ban on conversion therapy) and provincial healthcare systems (like Yukon’s gender-affirming care policy) give me hope that we can keep and even build more layers to protect us.
Currently, many organizations are working hard and advocating for a better future for trans and queer communities both in Canada and worldwide. Initiatives such as the federal LGBTQ2 Community Capacity Fund (which supports 76 community-led projects nationally) and the federal LGBTQ2 Action Plan will build stronger and more resilient communities. Some projects and organizations contribute to changing realities in countries where it is illegal to be queer and where people are being persecuted or even sentenced to the death penalty. Other initiatives are helping immigrants and refugees who have to leave their home countries because it is unsafe to stay. Together, this big combo will create solutions and policies for a more inclusive world.
Inclusion is a long journey as we keep learning and bringing more people to the table. Inclusion has to create the sense of belonging and safe spaces for everyone, respecting their own identities. However, we cannot ignore the paradox of tolerance developed by the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper. In what seems a counterintuitive statement, Popper argued that intolerant people (with their biases and prejudices) cannot be tolerated in a tolerant society, or they will end up destroying the tolerant people and, in consequence, will not allow for the development of inclusive societies. It’s why we experience this complex journey to eliminate barriers and obstacles that block airflow.
Although the future seems threatened with losing its (rainbow) colours because of this poisonous foggy movement, I want to encourage you to keep fighting for our rights and to celebrate all positive changes. Let’s keep repainting the colours that some people keep trying to wash out. Let’s open our windows to vent the rooms, circulate the air, and spray our sweet and colourful smells. Let’s feel the winds of hope. Let’s channel the wisdom of the Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda: “They can cut all the flowers, but they cannot stop the spring.”
LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the marketing and communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.