We hear of studies that indicate that about 80 per cent of Canadians accept equality may not be realistic. Surveys on LGBTQ acceptance in Canadian society are not always reliable and the truth somewhat exaggerated.
Pride celebrations tend to draw thousands to the streets to watch a Pride Parade and during that process we observe folks applauding, laughing, chanting and other means of expressing the joy of a parade. Many will acknowledge they attend because of curiosity and others are there to express their support for equality and yet some will express their disapproval. Generally, the support is genuine and by all accounts a success story.
We tend to criticize rather than publicly support equal rights and for some reason express ideas of the ruination of society because, as many still believe, this community is after special rights. The truth is we all deserve equal rights, opportunity and respect. Accepting something we know very little about breeds contempt, as a lack of understanding and unwillingness to broaden one’s thoughts is of foreign nature for some.
A recent survey, conducted by polling firm CROP, indicates that while LGBTQ citizens feel they are generally accepted in our society, about 75 per cent report they have been bullied at some point in their lives. The study was commissioned by Fondation Jasmin Roy, a Quebec-based anti-bullying, anti-discrimination and anti-violence group. The study concluded that society is not as open about this issue as generally believed.
I concur with that statement. Less than 10 per cent of LGBTQ respondents feel Canadian society is totally open to sexual and gender diversity, while 45 per cent said they view Canadian society as not very, or not at all open, and 81 per cent feel society in this country has shown a willingness to try to integrate people from the LGBTQ community. That number is decidedly excessive and I feel that 60 per cent is closer to reality.
We remain oppressed by many religious factions, even in Canada. We like to view ourselves as open to change and accepting of others who are “different” in sexual orientation, gender identity, colour of skin, other religious beliefs, social background, or cultural origins. Those LGBTQ people who are from non-accepting nations such as India, Russian and African countries, have major concerns about being embraced by their parents, friends, or religious beliefs. As mentioned in previous columns, Uganda was set to pass the LGBT Anti-Homosexuality bill a few years ago and it was intercepted by that country’s Supreme Court. However, politicians are indicating a retry.
We also must take into account that positive changes are sometimes met by resistance and depend greatly on political views expressed by the various parties. We cannot take for granted that we are on the road to total acceptance of LGBTQ citizens, yes, even in Canada. According to the survey, 54 per cent of respondents from the LGBTQ community said their life will be or has been more difficult than that of a person not part of a sex or gender minority. Another 81 per cent feel distress, loneliness, isolation or discouragement related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. So our work continues.
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.