Canada: Strong and free for LGBT people?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(First of a series)

Canada is the envy of the world in many ways — except for its damn snow, of course. But when it comes to civil rights for gay and lesbian people, the nation is leagues ahead of most countries, even its neighbour to the south, the United States.

Canada is also making progress on transgender rights, notwithstanding the shameful failure of the Senate to pass Bill C-279. But the Senate’s disgraceful behavior is as much symptomatic of an archaic — and some might say, corrupt — institution as it is about transphobia.

No doubt, beyond the Senate, there are some pockets of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia in Canada, but it can be difficult for an individual to prove it if they find themselves being passed over for job promotions or, worse, being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Few companies would admit their homophobia/transphobia; they find other reasons for dismissal.

And, of course, Canada still has right-wing institutions always looking for an opportunity to turn the clock back on civil rights, and to push  LGBT people into the shadows. While they long ago lost their crusade to oppress gay and lesbian people, the right-wingers are still bent on persecuting transgender people and are not to be underestimated; they have considerable sway over Conservative politicians, some of whom are easily pussywhipped.

But Canada’s parts are greater than its whole: most provinces have moved to protect transgender people, with Ontario leading the way.

On a micro, personal level,  I bet every Canadian gay, lesbian and transgender person — and perhaps bisexual persons, too — have been victims of homophobic or transphobic acts. Sometimes those acts are very blatant, but most often they are subtle. And they can be both blatant and subtle.

For example, the deliberate misgendering — and trans people know when it is deliberate — of a recently transitioned woman by a colleague in front of other colleagues may be one of the cruelest and most humiliating acts of transphobia, but is too often overlooked and brushed aside by managers and other colleagues as a mere mental error. Those types of “I forgot” slipups are seldom accidents. Management should never let that sort of thing slip by without it being challenged, but you know it happens all the time.

For gay and lesbian people, discrimination in the workplace may be far more subtle, but it exists, often in the form of gossip behind their backs.

Thing is, LGBT people can spot — and feel — discrimination a mile away. It can’t be hidden.

On the surface at least, Canada is still a pretty great place for LGBT people — especially when you compare it to countries like Uganda and Nigeria. But there is room for improvement.

We’ll talk more about that in another instalment of this series. If you would like to contribute an article about the state of LGB and/or T affairs in your province, please let us know at lgbtperspectives@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, a new unrelated feature is being added to this blog soon. It’s called First Person, in which guest writers from around the world are invited to contribute articles about their personal experiences, i.e. coming out, gender transitioning, activism, etc. More on that in a separate post soon. If you are interested in contributing to that, write to us at the address given in the preceding paragraph.

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor

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“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey

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