When you don’t name LGBTQ people, we don’t exist.

We are not immune to populism, the rise of the right, and the far-right in Canada.

We are seeing spread in the prejudiced and hateful mindsets and discourse in Canadian opinion and politics. In the recent Alberta election, Jason Kenney and his United Conservative party (UCP) won, seemingly without any concern from his supporters that Kenney worked to overturn a spousal law that permitted gay men to visit their dying partners in the hospital during the AIDS epidemic while studying in San Francisco.

Those who support Kenney hide behind platitudes, making nonsensical, meaningless statements like, ‘the times have changed and so has Kenney’. Kenney has never apologized for his heinous actions, which (in his words) brought him closer to his church and his ‘god’. To me, this means he is still guilty of prejudice against LGBTQ people.

For a dirty laundry list of the anti-LGBTQ choices Kenney has made over the years, including his affiliations in prejudice, read, Jason Kenney is Alberta’s new premier. What does it mean for LGBTQ2 people?

Kenney’s election win of Alberta was probably fuelled by the hateful, prejudiced, and province-wide rape of Ontario’s health care and social welfare currently happening under the disdainful and draconian rule of Doug Ford and the Ontario Provincial Conservative party.

Ford has put in place a cabinet of Yes men (and a few Yes women) who are all white  – but for a token Asian male. A number of these ministers have little to no training in their posts, including little to no empathy for anyone who didn’t vote for them.

Privilege is not a licence for gender and sexual blindness.

In the Ontario Legislature on the International Day of Pink, April 10, 2019, “Ontario’s NDP LGBTQ+ critic Terence Kernaghan called on Minister of Education Lisa Thompson to speak about protecting queer and trans students.”

“The Day of Pink is the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Transmisogyny across the world. We invite everyone to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in their workplaces, schools and communities.”

International Day of Pink

Thompson is not an ally or a friend of the LGBTQ community.

Here is part of the conversation that happened in the Legislature between Kernaghan and Thompson:

Kernaghan: Speaker, it would be nice to hear the minister be able to say the words “homophobia” and “transphobia” on this Day of Pink, because that is what this day is about.

Thompson: Actually, those words don’t exist in my vocabulary because it’s about the actions that really matter. I’m thinking of my friend Craig; I’m thinking of my friend Frank. I am thinking about my family members whom we embrace. We don’t classify and we don’t use terms to label. We embrace relationships. We embrace healthy relationships and that is what our curriculum is going to reflect when it’s released in September next year. 

DailyXtra

Thompson use of language is exclusive and excluding.

By refusing to name, to identify, and to label individuals who are oppressed and marginalized, she is seeking to oppress LGBTQ people by making us invisible and dismissing us as part of the human collective. By not naming us directly, Thompson is also setting up a politics to deny us our rights and to potentially modify or remove the rights we have worked so hard to achieve in both Ontario and Canada.

It’s important to remember that during the Ontario PC Party annual convention in November 2018, the Party passed the contentious “Policy Resolution R4  –  Education and Community Safety” which was a slap in the face for human rights in Ontario. Ironically, they did this during Trans Awareness month:

Be it resolved that an Ontario PC Party recognizes “gender identity theory” for what it is, namely, a highly controversial, and unscientific “liberal ideology”; and, as such, that an Ontario PC government will remove the teaching and promotion of “gender identity theory” from Ontario schools and its curriculum.

Source

Thompson DOES NOT have the right or the privilege to take away our identity or to “dis-label” us with the arrogant claim that, “those words don’t exist in my vocabulary”. The only people who get to name or reclaim labels ascribed to their identity are those who are so labelled. The only people who make statements like, “those words don’t exist in my vocabulary”, are the oppressor.

For example, I call myself queer, gay, and a fag because I have reclaimed those words. I recognize that queer and fag are contentious terms for some gay men. Yet the reclaiming of and the ownership of those labels are similar to the Black community’s use of the “N-word”. Only they are allowed to use that word (even though many within their community don’t appreciate it).

If Thompson had refused to identify a person of colour (POC) in a statement about something to do with the rights of POC, she’d have a PR nightmare that would have had her kicked out of caucus. I do not have to like Thompson or appreciate her politics, but I demand that she apologize for her abject and arrogant exclusion of LGBTQ people in her speech cited above. Her choice of words  –  her choice to EXCLUDE  –  is no different than a white person saying, “I don’t see colour” when referring to race.

Unless you are medically colour blind, saying you don’t see colour is white, privileged racism. You cannot deny what is right in front of you unless you chose not to see reality for what it is  –  a worrisome trend we are seeing more of with the rise of populism, the far-right, Evengelical Christians, and flat-earthers.

“Choosing our own comfort over difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion is the epitome of privilege. It erodes trust.”

Brene Brown

LGBTQ people exist and we are visible.

We are also bullied, beaten, locked up, denied visitation rights to our dying partners, tortured, murdered, and stoned to death for simply being human. This is why we still need our labels. If we are still prejudiced against, we need to remain visible until at such time we are loved and respected in the human collective for being who we are.

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Originally published on Th-Ink Queerly. Cover image: Marco Fieber — “Enough is enough — Open your mouth!”, Demonstration against homophobia in Russia