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REFOCUS: Activism for LGBTQ+ Equality

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven - FILE

By Gerard Veldhoven

The recent tabling of a law that would ban gay conversion therapy was the result of many voices arguing that the practice is discriminatory and leads to mental illness, suicidal thoughts and in some cases even suicide.

The voices were heard and action followed. Some would argue that this is the result of many voices speaking in unison and individuals are usually muzzled. Not so, and this has been proven over the years. Not to say that groups are not being heard, but all who work towards an equal world are on top of that world. Individual activists in the LGBTQ+ community are noteworthy because they are ready and willing to be out there for all to pay attention, and not afraid to be hassled, contradicted or some other reaction that could result in some sort of physical harm.

A group or association making statements that are controversial and indeed powerful are generally viewed as a unified group of people and usually not associated with one particular person. In part, this is a safer manner that, when a statement is made, abusive action against them is not so common. In any case, it matters not if it is one person or 100 – the goal is to get folks to listen, pay attention to the reasons for the activism.

The LGBTQ+ citizens of Canada and around the world have many issues that need to be addressed. Those needs are real, and the emphasis must be on the eventual needs to be satisfied, protection under new laws to be on par with all other citizens, discrimination lessened, mental stability assured in cases of abuse and attacks because of sexual orientation, or true gender identity and expression.

Whatever the ills, we pay attention, and we act. As an activist for over four decades, I have some insight into the challenges of fighting governments – federally, provincially and on the municipal level. It is time consuming, argumentative, and decidedly worth the efforts. About 10 years ago, I did a study on long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia, to find out if LGBTQ+ seniors would have protection and equal care. One person demanded to know if I worked alone, or part of an LGBTQ+ group. The person insisted that the time for individual activists has ended.

I have been involved in activism for over four decades, and mostly alone with the occasional addition of a few interested persons. It is challenging, but yet I have experienced much in the way of contacting governments, ministers, mayors and so many others. All of us must be involved in pursuing those in power to get on our side, instead of attempting to shrug off the importance of equal rights for Canada’s LGBTQ+ citizens. The importance of activism cannot be viewed as a mere attempt to fight for rights.

Of course, a common thought from ‘outsiders’ is, “Well, you have equal rights and Canadians are so welcoming and accepting, so your work is done.” Not so, by any means. To be fair, yes, we have protection under the law and have rights as all others such as, equal marriage, survivor’s benefits, adoptions and more.

Discrimination is on the increase around the globe. So, whether we work alone as an activist, or as a group, we all have the responsibility to make a dent in the discrimination that is so ominous. We fight on with whatever tools are available. We must, or face a future where dominance of the majority reigns and equality is not attainable.

In the words of cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News. Comments and information:

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