“To serve and protect who?”

Toronto Police should listen to marginalized LGBTQ+ folks and attend Pride — without the badge

“To serve and protect who?”

Last month, Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, announced that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) will march in the 2019 parade in uniform, following their absence in the last two parades.

In the 2016 parade, a Black Lives Matter protest successfully demanded that police floats be removed and officers not show up in uniform for future parades. Some view the upcoming re-entry of police as a step forward for the community’s relationship with the TPS.

But it has also drawn ire, particularly among marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community, whose negative experiences with the TPS had made it difficult for them to attend the event in the past. They had been strongly supportive of the absence of the TPS.

One can understand the desire to portray a united front when trying to achieve reconciliation. The presence of the TPS at the Pride Parade might one day become a symbol of the triumph of community and love over injustice and persecution.

However, it is inappropriate to access this symbol until that triumph has actually been attained in an effective and permanent capacity. Many of the most vulnerable among us still feel as though their relationship with the police has a long way to go toward respect and repair. 

A demonstration in opposition to police in uniform at Pride was held in front of Pride Toronto’s headquarters on November 3. Organized by Ashley Cooper, the Facebook event for the demonstration drew support from over 1,000 individuals.

The event was attended by leaders in the LGBTQ+ community, including Nick Mulé, an associate professor at York University and the Chair of Queer Ontario, sociologist and activist Gary Kinsman, one of Canada’s leading academics on LGBTQ+ issues, and Alphonso King Jr., also known as DJ Relentless and Jade Elektra.

Their speeches were impassioned, focused, and reflected a bitter frustration toward the executive directorship of Pride Toronto for what feels to many community members like a severe betrayal of Pride’s history of resistance.

It is important to recognize that the Pride festival exists to commemorate the progress made by activists against decades of violence abetted and often executed by governmental and law enforcement bodies. 

Kinsman opened his address by introducing himself as one of the organizers of Toronto’s first Pride event held in  June 1981.

“I want to remind people a little bit first of all about the history of that first Pride. 1981 was the year of the bath raids and the mass resistance on the part of our communities to the police invasions of our lives, the arrests, and all of the horror that occurred as a result of those raids.”

37 years ago, on February 5, 1981, the Metropolitan Toronto Police conducted a raid of four bathhouses, arresting 286 men and prompting outrage from Toronto’s gay and lesbian community and its public allies.

Toronto Pride Week grew out of the mass protests that ensued, which were organized against not only the raids, but also against the systemic discrimination of the queer community perpetrated by the city’s police force. 

The insistence that the officers be allowed to march in uniform is accordingly troubling. The attempt to paint the social institution of policing as an ally in those achievements, as opposed to its historical role as aggressor and deterrer, is misleading.

“It’s right there at the top of their website: ‘To Serve and Protect.’ But to serve and protect who?” Cooper asked of those in attendance at the November 3 demonstration.

Recent interactions between the community and the police indicate that the relationship is far from healed.

In the fall of 2016, it was brought to the public’s attention that the police were engaging in an undercover operation titled Project Marie, in which police arrested 72 individuals after luring them into soliciting sex acts at Marie Curtis Park. The 89 charges laid were almost entirely bylaw infractions, a baffling choice considering that undercover operations are utilized primarily for cases of criminal activity.

This year, the arrest of Bruce McArthur for the first-degree murder of eight men between 2010 and 2017 dug a deeper schism between the community and the TPS. In December 2017, already months into an investigation, Chief Mark Saunders claimed that there was no evidence of a serial killer targeting the gay community.

Not only did the TPS publicly deny the connection of the disappearances to a serial murderer, but a statement released by Pride Toronto in April revealed that the community had earlier voiced their concern about the disappearances, only to be dismissed by the investigators.

At the demonstration, it was made clear that many feel that the decision to once again extend the invitation to police is primarily based on a threat to Pride of losing its government funding.

“‘It has come to threaten our very existence as a publicly funded non-profit community organization.’ That is a direct quote from their statement,” Cooper cited from Pride Toronto’s announcement. 

To insist that the LGBTQ+ community be the first to extend their hands in friendship to the police, especially in invitation to an event that is such an emblem of rebellion against oppression, is neither fair nor reasonable when reciprocal efforts toward reconciliation have not yet been appropriately rendered.

“The people who wear the badge are welcome,” Cooper said. “It is the badge we have asked to stay at home.”

Anna Osterberg is a first-year Master of Teaching student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The corporatization of queer liberation

Pinkwashing at Toronto’s Pride Parade

The corporatization of queer liberation

H aving some sort of Pride celebration during the summer months is now par for the course for many major city centres, and more and more, the festivities are spreading into even smaller urban areas. Owen Sound, Ontario, had its very first pride parade this year.

As queer events garner broader attendance, they have also become sought after opportunities for corporate sponsorship and advertisement. However, these advertisements often provoke widespread criticism — can Pride demonstrations stay true to their founding spirit of queer liberation when they’re bankrolled by major corporations?

To spectators at this year’s Pride Parade in Toronto, a corporate presence was extremely visible. Most of the large scale floats sported rainbow coloured logos of large companies like Canada Trust or Bud Light. Yet, while these corporate floats loomed large over the pedestrian element of the parade, many groups on foot carried signage protesting that same corporate involvement, with slogans such as “You Can’t Buy My Pride” or “The ‘T’ in LGBTQ Doesn’t Stand for ‘TD’.”

For some, corporate sponsorship is a benign and necessary aspect of contemporary Pride movements and celebrations. For others, it’s pinkwashing big business trying to appear queer-friendly in order to seem progressive and gain new marketing opportunities, without necessarily caring about or contributing to the community.

While complaints against corporate involvement in queer events are becoming more frequent, the political environment has changed dramatically. With government funding for queer non-profits already scarce and potentially becoming more so (if the recently scrapped LGBTQ+-friendly sexual education curriculum is any indication), there’s also the question of whether these groups can continue to do work for the queer community without relying on private and corporate funding.

Origins of Pride

The origin of these mid-year celebrations and most contemporary queer organizing is usually acknowledged as the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

In 1969 New York, it was illegal to ‘solicit homosexual relations.’ On June 28 of that year, police conducted a series of raids on bars in Greenwich Village that were thought to be gathering places for the queer community. This culminated in a raid on the Stonewall Inn, which broke into a queer struggle against the police, who ended up barricaded inside the inn.

While members of the community deserve to be highlighted in the events of that night most notably, trans woman Marsha P. Johnson, who is credited with throwing the first stone of the riots much of the lasting significance of that night was the lesson of how the queer community could band together to fight their diverse oppressions.

After that night, queer liberation movements gained visibility and momentum. More locally, Toronto Pride celebrations grew out of the Bathhouse Raids of 1981. The Toronto police forces coordinated raids on four major bathhouses that they suspected of prostitution and ‘indecent acts’ — read: queer sexuality.

After a whopping 286 arrests, the raids marked a turning point in Toronto’s queer liberation movement. The queer community grew increasingly politicized and refused to be swept under the rug by police, media, or the public.

Both these events occured, of course, long before large companies would have had any interest in sponsoring queer movements. So how do the events of 1969 and 1981 compare to our modern Pride celebrations, where corporate sponsorships feature prominently in queer organizing?

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Contemporary Pride

While both the Stonewall and Bathhouse riots were protests, modern Pride has incorporated more and more celebratory aspects, as milestones of LGBTQ+ liberation become more frequent.

Now that larger corporations and even governments wish to share in Pride celebrations, there is often more competition for visibility.

This was clear in the summer of 2016, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) Toronto staged a protest in the Pride Parade over the growing marginalization of the Black queer community within Pride celebrations.

Pride Toronto ultimately agreed to Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands. That same year, Justin Trudeau marked the first time that a Canadian Prime Minister ever walked in a Pride celebration, but Trudeau did so without ever publicly acknowledging the BLM protest to which he was in such close proximity.

These events raise questions of who should be privileged and visible at events of queer celebration. As the signage shows, many protestors at this year’s Pride parades and marches argued that corporate sponsorship didn’t belong. However, at the same time, Pride is a non-profit organization. Since it charges no admission to its events, sponsorships are vital to its ability to create queer spaces.

I wrote to Undergraduate Director and Lecturer Dai Kojima from the University of Toronto’s Sexual Diversity Studies Program about the dilemma that queer non-profits find themselves in.

When asked about the potential benefits and risks of major corporate sponsorship, Kojima responded that he viewed the situation as “more complicated than good/bad.” In Kojima’s opinion, “it is too easy to blame non-profits as being complicit in capitalism — as if they can ‘refuse’ to take the money.” He continued, “Many organizations are barely getting by and fighting over small pools of money to fund their programs, pay minimum salaries to their dedicated staff, and rent a basic work space to gather and organize activities.”

Kojima said that not all queer non-profits would even have the option of relying solely on non-corporate funding, especially non-profits that serve the most marginalized elements of the LGBTQ+ community, such as “racial and ethno-specific communities, homeless youths, sex workers, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, to name a few.”

He explained that “in the context of Toronto/Ontario, governmental support for these intersectional, queer non-profit organizations is shrinking rapidly — a dire situation made worse by the current Premier’s attack on social supports and public education on gender and sexual diversity.” This means that many more organizations are forced to turn to corporate support to stay viable.

Further, Kojima wrote, “We really have to understand the ambivalent and conflicted ways in which queer organizations — both big and small — work with corporations and governments to fund their work.”

Noulmook Sutdhibhasilp, Executive Director of the non-profit Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), echoed Kojima’s call for nuance in these discussions. He noted that issues of corporate sponsorship are directly linked to “a bigger social justice issue” — that is, the “neo-liberalism agenda that shrinks government’s welfare state and continues to direct the responsibilities of social, health, education and other services to be dictated by the market.”

For Sutdhibhasilp, this makes corporate sponsorships essential in providing services to marginalized communities in Toronto and elsewhere.

Sutdhibhasilp also expressed that while “many people are turned off by corporate logos and conditions they impose,” the “PRIDE spirit is in celebrating who we are” and taking up space in the mainstream.

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Who are the sponsors?

Sponsors vary widely in industry and how actively they support the queer community, outside of the weekend of Toronto Pride. One of Pride Toronto’s most noted sponsors is TD Banking, which sponsors 83 Pride festivities around North America while also supporting over 160 LGBTQ+ organizations and initiatives.

On the flip side, Bud Light is a major sponsor of Pride Toronto, yet was also a major sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. This move was widely criticized due to reports of Russia’s recent and well-documented persecution of LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly its anti-gay purges in Chechnya.

There are also sponsors like Remington’s Men of Steel strip bar, which supports Pride while arguably promoting cisnormative views of beauty and pleasure.

Nevertheless, all of these businesses are willing to put their profits into funding initiatives like Pride Toronto. Is this contribution enough, in return for all the benefits that they get through exposure at Toronto Pride? Or do corporations that can appear accepting and progressive through sponsoring events like Pride have more of a responsibility to engage with the queer community, as TD Bank and other sponsors try to do?

Kojima argued that the debate should not focus on whether corporate money is “always already bad” so much as on questions such as “which agendas are deemed safe and worthy in the eyes of corporate philanthropic programs and which voices remain on the margins?” and, “what systems of value and valuation are at work when corporate and government money is unevenly distributed?”

In that framework, organizations like Pride seem safer and less controversial than organizations serving more marginalized elements of the community, and therefore receive more corporate funding. This leaves organizations serving ethno-culturally specific or poverty stricken aspects of the queer community struggling for funds to keep their services going.

For anyone wanting to support some of those organizations who receive less governmental and corporate funding and remain on the margins, here are a few places you could start:

  • Rainbow Railroad: an organization helping LGBTQ+ people from around the world escape state-sponsored violence
  • Casey House: Canada’s only stand-alone hospital for HIV/AIDS patients
  • Youthline: a completely anonymous hotline for queer youth that provides referrals, support, and recommendations for resources
  • ACAS: mentioned briefly above, this organization works to make HIV/AIDS information, as well as general LGBTQ+ resources, available to East and Southeast Asian Communities

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Symbolic appropriation?

On a broader scale, questions regarding the effects of the widespread use of queer symbols by large corporations remain. While it can be positive for queer symbols to be more widely accepted and mainstream, Kojima noted that “we must be skeptical of the belief that circulation of symbols and mass consumption of them will somehow lead to some kind of liberation.”

The recent controversy surrounding the new Philadelphia Pride Flag, which incorporates black and brown stripes into the traditional rainbow flag to represent inclusion of queer people of color, highlights this. As Toronto recently experienced with the 2016 BLM protest, this is a much talked about issue in current queer organizing — the drive to ensure that people of color are not ignored when we talk about the queer community, and that this intersectionality is acknowledged.

It’s important to note that as of yet, no corporations have used the Philadelphia flag instead of the traditional rainbow colours. Perhaps the more frequently used “Love is Love” and “PRIDE” are safer, more consumer-friendly options, rather than embracing the contemporary face of the queer community and accepting potential controversy.

Kojima presented an ideal scenario, one that he stressed is only theoretical and not currently the way that corporate sponsorships work: “Ideally corporations should work with queer communities in order to first find out what the pressing needs of that particular community are and ask how their sponsorship will help that cause. Not the other way around.”

“Corporate donors need to let go of the expectation that their sponsorship and donation for queer events and programs will produce direct beneficial return (e.g. corporate visibility, increased positive public perception, monetary gains etc.), and instead should offer financial and other material supports because supporting these initiatives is the right thing to do.”

St. Michael’s College registrarial assistant has history of derogatory posts on social media

SMC administration aware of posts, “deplores” any derogatory language

St. Michael’s College registrarial assistant has history of derogatory posts on social media

Evidence has surfaced that St. Michael’s College (SMC) Registrarial Assistant Philip Hicks-Malloy’s social media have included derogatory posts that have targeted women, Muslims, and other marginalized groups.

Many of the postings targeted prominent female politicians, including former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, with a post calling her “a lying, satanic witch from hell.” The postings also shared a video about former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, above which he commented, “This Whore Bitch!!!!!!”

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

Among the content that has been shared on Hicks-Malloy’s social media was a post that called halal — a guideline that includes what foods are permissible in Islam — a “symbol of treason.” The post was a response to confectionary company Cadbury producing halal foods. On this shared post, Hicks-Malloy’s social media had added a comment saying, “Boycott this product!”

Also included was a shared post on Facebook that read, “People of European descent need to wake up and realize that our culture and identity is being strategically attacked by the Left,” as well as a post that claimed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was legalizing bestiality, which Trudeau has not.

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

Hicks-Malloy’s social media also shared posts from alt-right figures such as Faith Goldy and Milo Yiannopoulos. Goldy has been associated with white nationalists, is a former contributor at The Rebel Media, and is running for mayor of Toronto. Yiannopoulos, a former editor for far-right website Breitbart, has made derogatory comments toward marginalized groups in the past and collaborated with white nationalists.

Also on Hicks-Malloy’s Facebook timeline were many posts criticizing Toronto Pride, with one saying that Black Lives Matter had “infiltrated… [Toronto] Pride and have turned everyone against the police.”

Hicks-Malloy, who, according to his Facebook profile, is in a same-sex marriage, had described himself in a Facebook comment on his timeline as a “gay Homophobe,” and he had also shared a post saying that “the greatest threat to LGBT rights is the Liberal LGBT community.”

The Varsity reached out to Hicks-Malloy multiple times for comment but did not receive a reply. Soon after The Varsity’s attempts to reach him, many of his social media accounts, including Facebook and YouTube, were deleted.

In response to the discovery of Hicks-Malloy’s social media accounts in June 2018, then-SMC President David Mulroney told The Varsity in an email that “the University of St. Michael’s College deplores any use of language that fails to acknowledge the dignity, respect and worth of every person and that is inconsistent with the values of the University, which are rooted in the Gospel.”

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

According to then-SMC Director of Communications, Events, and Outreach Stefan Slovak, SMC had discovered the issue a few days prior to The Varsity’s request for comment in June 2018. Slovak said that they are “taking the issue seriously, but cannot comment further.”

SMC’s new president, David Sylvester, told The Varsity in an email, “I became aware of this situation when I began my term at the beginning of July, and am aware of a previous statement made at the time by President David Mulroney, which captures our current position perfectly.”

“We take this matter seriously, and are not in a position to offer any further comment at this time,” wrote Sylvester.

When asked about the situation this month, he responded, “St. Michael’s has addressed this situation in full accordance with the University’s policies.”

“St. Michael’s takes seriously its responsibilities to ensure that all USMC community members conduct themselves professionally at all times. We will not be commenting further regarding what is now an internal matter,” he continued.

According to Hicks-Malloy’s LinkedIn profile, which has also been deleted, he has worked for SMC for 29 years. As of press time, Hicks-Malloy is still listed as a registrarial assistant on SMC’s website.

A summer’s worth of opinions

A compilation of Comment-in-Briefs in reaction to some of the major stories of the summer semester

A summer’s worth of opinions

The new School of Cities could be the pivotal voice we need for complex urban issues, as long as it pulls together

Re: “U of T’s School of Cities to Launch July 1”

U of T’s new School of Cities has vowed to tackle urban-related issues through interdisciplinary methods and collaborations. However, finding more coherent information on the partnerships or direction of this school has been unsatisfying. Apart from their slogans, the School of Cities’ website features pictures and short descriptions of the professors comprising the Interim Working Group, and three articles and two podcast links which are informative but overlap in content.

On the one hand, this is a frustrating start to an institution that encompasses many of the most important and immediate issues of our modernizing time. With Associate Director Shauna Brail calling the School “a big-tent approach” to urban research, and U of T President Meric Gertler claiming it to be a “hub in a global network” of scholars and practitioners, the school is not lacking in grand objectives. However, this has so far failed to reveal convincing short-term targets.

On the other hand, the school has only taken its very first public baby steps, and a definite outline of objectives often hurts the creativity of budding institutions. Cities are the playgrounds of the future, and though the school shouldn’t have to trudge carefully toward a path, they need to pave their way holistically. The extremely diverse group of professors seems to suggest an optimistic direction, as they draw from Civil and Mineral Engineering to Indigenous Health to Women and Gender Studies.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect about the School of Cities is the bridge it shall attempt to build between theory and practice. Hopefully the school will encourage U of T students to help build this bridge and contribute significantly to not only the initiatives, but the very soul of the institution.

For students and urban dwellers in general, never have cities felt more saturated with potential, yet held back by issues regarding housing, transportation, and public safety, to name a few. The School of Cities presents an exciting and critical opportunity for diverse urban communities to contribute to the dialogue of the future of cities.

Grace Ma is a second-year English and Environmental Sciences student at Trinity College.


We cannot have religious freedom at the expense of social equality

Re: “Trinity Western loses Supreme Court case on religious freedom v. LGBTQ+ rights”

IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

The battle between the constitutional right to freedom of religion and LGBTQ+ rights has taken shape in Trinity Western University’s (TWU) Supreme Court case against the Law Societies of British Columbia and Ontario. Unsurprisingly, the university lost the case seven to two.

The very law that allows the evangelical Christian university to exist has been proven to have clear boundaries. When pitted against each other, religious freedom comes second in modern Canadian society to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The problem with the covenant signed by all TWU students is that it requires abstinence from any sexual intimacy, not only outside of a heterosexual marriage, but also from any intimacy that “violated the sacredness” of that marriage. This very clearly alienated the LGBTQ+ population, allowing TWU to deny them admission.

U of T campus group LGBTOUT, the intervenors on the case, brought this very point up, arguing that the proposed law school would bar LGBTQ+ students solely based on sexual or gender preferences, which is clearly a discriminatory action.

The case was a big win for the LGBTQ+ community as the Supreme Court clearly announced that the law must protect each and every individual of the Canadian population. The court’s decision came at a celebratory time, enhancing the joy and excitement for Pride Month.

This is not the first time TWU has faced the Supreme Court over religious freedoms. I expect it to continue happening over different issues until TWU recognizes that although religious freedom is crucial to a democratic society, its importance should never surpass the importance of equality in a society that is constantly growing and changing.

Varsha Pillai is a first-year Social Sciences student at University College.


Provost’s action plan does not account for safety or student leadership

Re: “Alcohol at Trinity events can no longer be paid for with student fees”

VASSILIA JULIA AL AKAILA/THE VARSITY

In an email correspondence informing Trinity College students of the administration’s action plan, the Office of the Provost mentions their “aim to improve transparency and communications, while focusing on education, safety and harm reduction, and leadership development.”

As a Trinity College student, I feel that there are numerous inconsistencies with this statement.

First, putting forward an action plan without adequate consultation with student leaders undermines the direct democracy and commitment to student autonomy that has defined Trinity College tradition. Preventing student leaders from spending student fees in a manner they deem fit does not make for effective leadership development. While it’s true that not all students are drinkers, the reality of student fees is that they do not always benefit each student individually.

Second, focusing on safety and harm reduction includes acknowledging that a significant percentage of young adults are going to drink. Harm reduction involves creating a safe environment in which students are familiar with their surroundings and have non-punitive support networks when it comes to alcohol consumption, including a sober patrol and Dons in case of emergency. Moving such events off campus does not guarantee such an environment.

Additionally, the claim that the administration created this action plan primarily due to a 10-month survey of students is dubious given the college’s response to a motion of no confidence passed at the Trinity College Meeting (TCM) last year.

The first meeting at the TCM included a motion of no confidence in which students shared their grievances regarding Dean Kristen Moore and her staff. The motion passed with an overwhelming majority, but it was then overlooked by Provost Mayo Moran, who ensured that she had “full confidence in [Moore].”

Avneet Sharma is a fourth-year English and Cinema Studies student at Trinity College.


The loss of popular locations for students points to a decline in affordability

Re: “Saint George hotel opens on Bloor Street West, replacing Holiday Inn”

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

In July, the Saint George hotel officially opened in place of the Holiday Inn, Fox and Fiddle Pub, and New York Fries on Bloor Street West. After the Starbucks on College and Beverley Street also closed its doors earlier this year to make way for a condominium to be built by January 2020, there are now a total of four popular locations around campus that are no longer available for U of T students.

Holiday Inn housed many families when students visited U of T for the very first time. The Fox and Fiddle Pub had just the right vibe for all kinds of rendezvous, whether it be post-exam celebrations or simple get-togethers. New York Fries was the kitchen of Bloor Street that students resorted to after long hours at the library, often because they were too exhausted to walk any further.

Henceforth, these places will live only in the memories of soon-to-be graduates, while prospective students will no longer share the experience of what had already become part of the ‘typical U of T student’ routine.

From a student perspective, opening a luxury hotel such as the Saint George in the Annex is not ideal, considering its expensive price point of almost $300 per night. Although Gyubee — a somewhat pricey Japanese BBQ joint just across from the Saint George — had already broken the concept of affordable eateries in the Annex, the Saint George will now completely reform the image of a cost-friendly neighborhood for students. This end of the Annex is looking more and more like luxurious Yorkville.

Annie Hu is a third-year Criminology, Music, and Sociology student at Woodsworth College.

The Ontario sex ed repeal can’t erase queer families, only perpetuate ignorance

Without proper education, LGBTQ+ families remain seen as ‘other’ in a way that forces them to constantly justify their existence

The Ontario sex ed repeal can’t erase queer families, only perpetuate ignorance

Following the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party’s decision to replace the 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum with the outdated 1998 curriculum this fall, public reaction immediately indicated that the latter does not adequately equip children with the information they need to keep themselves safe and healthy in the modern era.

Under the scrutiny of parents, educators, and health professionals, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson has made comments about amending the curriculum to include information on internet safety, but she has not indicated that the 1998 curriculum will be amended to mention LGBTQ+ people or relationships one of the underlying reasons social conservatives support this repeal.

Ontario needs a curriculum that acknowledges LGBTQ+ families. I know the effects of the 1998 curriculum first hand. When my second grade class found out that my mom is a lesbian, they asked if that meant I was gay too or if it was something they could catch. When my eighth grade class found out, they asked who was the husband and who was the wife in my mom’s relationship. When my 10th grade class found out that my mom is gay, they asked how she had sex with her partner.

Homophobia remains a large problem in schools, and will no doubt be exacerbated by scrapping the updated curriculum. But to me, the point isn’t that my peers were homophobic. While some were, the majority of my schoolmates were simply curious and uneducated, and they assumed I had answers to questions that no one else would let them ask.

At the crux of the social conservatives’ argument against the updated sex ed curriculum is the belief that it will introduce children to homosexuality. According to a webpage by the right-wing group Campaign Life Coalition, the 2015 curriculum “normalize[s] homosexual family structures and homosexual ‘marriage’ in the minds of 8-year-olds.”

This argument is clearly flawed, considering the fact that same-sex marriage was legalized over a decade ago. In the eyes of the federal government and the court system, same-sex marriage is already normal.

“It’s curious that they think that repealing the sex ed curriculum will mean people don’t know about same-sex couples,” says my mom. “Our children talk about their families in school and we show up at the events!”

She’s right: reverting to a curriculum that predates the legalization of same-sex marriage and important wins for the trans community won’t erase LGBTQ+ families. But the problem isn’t that LGBTQ+ families aren’t seen and heard; it’s that we’re still seen as ‘other’ in a way that forces us to constantly justify our existence.

When I, and the other children of gay parents, become the sole source of information on LGBTQ+ people at our schools, our lives are put under scrutiny in ways that other children’s are not. We are forced to live as posterchildren for the narrative that LGBTQ+ parents are perfect parents and that we are perfect children just so our families will be accepted. The reality is that we are not perfect, and constantly having to pretend that we are becomes a burdensome role.

Recently, the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study released the results of the longest running study of children from lesbian parents. It adds to a number of studies that suggest that children raised by same-sex families are no worse off than their peers.

LGBTQ+ families don’t need a study to know that their families are normal families. Families like mine are not a new experiment or phenomenon they have always existed and will continue to exist with every new government and policy change. The updated 2015 sex ed curriculum that acknowledges queer families cannot undo centuries of discrimination. What it can do is lessen the ignorance we face today.

Makeda Zook, co-editor of Spawning Generations: Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents, tells me in an email that the exclusionary 1998 curriculum not only “leaves [queer] families out, it leaves us vulnerable and uncertain about who to trust and who will have our backs when faced with violent attitudes and behaviours.” Zook says the dehumanization that LGBTQ+ families face as a result of being excluded from curriculum “makes violence possible.”

Zook shares that while growing up in the 1990s with two lesbian moms, she felt like she “had to (from a very young age) make the choice between actively trying to hide and remain invisible or risk being bullied and harassed.” She continues, “By repealing Ontario’s 2015 sex-ed curriculum this is the choice we are leaving kids to face now over 20 years after I graduated from elementary school.”  

The PC’s decision to revert back to a curriculum created in a time when our families lacked important rights demonstrates that despite victories for queer families over the twenty-first century, Ontario still has a ways to go. Despite this decision, I’ve seen a positive shift since I left grade school, and the publication of an anthology like Spawning Generations leaves me with the hope that by telling our stories, queer families can push for acceptance.

Though he may try, Doug Ford cannot take Ontario back to the twentieth century, and the pushback to this decision in the form of protests across the province makes it clear that LGBTQ+ families refuse to be erased.

Amelia Eaton is a second-year Political Science and Ethics, Society, and Law student at Woodsworth College.

In Photos: The 2018 Toronto Pride Parade

In Photos: The 2018 Toronto Pride Parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity Western loses Supreme Court case on religious freedom v. LGBTQ+ rights

U of T campus group LGBTOUT acted as intervenors on case

Trinity Western loses Supreme Court case on religious freedom v. LGBTQ+ rights

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against Trinity Western University (TWU) in a case that pits religious freedom against LGBTQ+ rights. TWU is a BC-based evangelical Christian university with a satellite campus in Ontario that was denied accreditation for a proposed law school by the law societies of BC and Ontario on the grounds that TWU discriminates against LGBTQ+ people. On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled 72 in favour of the law societies.

The case arose over a covenant agreement that all TWU students have to sign, which binds them to a code of conduct that specifically requires students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

“The community covenant is a solemn pledge in which members place themselves under obligations on the part of the institution to its members, the members to the institution, and the members to one another,” reads Section One of the agreement on the school’s website.

“TWU reserves the right to question, challenge or discipline any member in response to actions that impact personal or social welfare.”

As a result of the university’s community covenant agreement, concerns about the personal safety and open access of LGBTQ+ students were raised by various groups, including U of T campus group Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT).

On November 30, 2017, a two-day hearing for the case was held by the Supreme Court against the university. LGBTOUT, which is the longest-standing LGBTQ+ group in Canada, travelled to the Supreme Court to act as an intervenor on the case, arguing that the law school “would harm prospective LGBTQ+ students, who would be effectively barred from TWU just because of their sexual or gender orientation.”

An intervenor on a Supreme Court case is meant to provide perspective to the matter and may be brought in at the discretion of the court.

In a statement released on the group’s Facebook page, LGBTOUT called the ruling “fantastic news.”

“There is no place for LGBTQ+ discrimination in the legal profession or in Canadian society. LGBTOUT is thrilled with this news and victory for our community, especially as it comes during Pride Month!”

Judges Suzanne Côté and Russell Brown were the only judges that sided with TWU, arguing that judicial intervention should be more limited when it comes to approving law programs.

“While, therefore, the [Law Society of BC] has purported to act in the cause of ensuring equal access to the profession, it has effectively denied that access to a segment of Canadian society, solely on religious grounds. In our respectful view, this unfortunate state of affairs merits judicial intervention, not affirmation.”

This is not the first time TWU has faced the Supreme Court over grounds of religious freedom. In 2001, the British Columbia College of Teachers refused to accredit their teacher training programs due to the discriminatory nature of the community covenant.

After the court’s ruling, it is uncertain whether TWU will continue its plans for its proposed law school as the Law Societies of British Columbia and Ontario refuse to accredit their law degrees.

Inclusivity in sports: the Change Room Project

How U of T is promoting LGBTQ+ participation in athletics

Inclusivity in sports: the Change Room Project

Growing up, sports always made me feel at home — my teams became my family. I thought sports made others feel the same way until high school, when there was outrage when an openly gay male student wanted to join the cheerleading team. There were no gender restriction rules, but the girls on the team were still mad. Their main concern was where he would change.

He eventually ended up on the team. The LGBTQ+ community has experienced extensive abuse and harassment when it comes to sports. There have been recent breakthroughs, including the 2014 NFL drafting of openly gay player Michael Sam and the International Olympic Committee’s 2016 decision to change its policy and become more inclusive to transgender individuals. Though the international sporting community is becoming more aware, there is still more to be done in the progression of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the sporting community.

At the University of Toronto, one of the most visible campaigns is the Change Room Project, a joint initiative with the PanAm Pride leadership group and spearheaded Caroline Fusco, an associate professor in the faculty of kinesiology and physical education at U of T. The project involves displaying comments or stories, written by LGBTQ+ students, around and outside the change rooms at the Goldring Athletic Centre. All the statements reflect on individuals’ experiences in the locker room, shedding light on the troubles that they have faced and continue to face.

The project “places the words of LGBTQ students in the very spaces where they are underrepresented,” reads a brochure. It seeks to build awareness of and investigate how social and physical experiences of LGBTQ+ people in athletic facilities impact their participation levels, giving a platform to marginalized people who would otherwise feel uncomfortable or fearful entering or using the facilities.

One of the more publicized comments was made by Luca Nagy, a lesbian student with more masculine features. In her statement, she explains the harassment she has endured, including unwanted stares and people telling her she doesn’t belong in the women’s locker room.

Recently, the university stated that it is “committed to equity and wellness” and acknowledged that “there is still much work to be done when it comes to creating safe, inclusive locker room spaces.”

Editor’s Note (March 23): This article has been updated to reflect that the Change Room Project was spearheaded by Caroline Fusco.