the day to end it

Open Letters

Yesterday was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia!

What is IDAHOT?  For 12 years, this day has been celebrated to “draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally… when LGBTI communities mobilize on a worldwide scale.

The Day represents an annual landmark to draw the attention of decision makers, the media, the public, opinion leaders and local authorities to the alarming situation faced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people and all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.”

As the IDAHOT site  explains, “May 17 is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal, with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014. These mobilisations unite millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

This Is What Inspiration Looks Like:

I spent the day with over 300 young leaders and activists from Halton, at a gorgeous farm, listening to speakers and attending workshops.

Our day included a First Nations welcome and circle dance, performances by IllNaNa Dance, poet Jenna Tenn-Yuk and keynote delivered by MPP Cheri DiNovo.

Getting 300 people to form concentric circles and dance in the morning sunshine was pretty amazing.  In this symbolic shape, no one is more important than anyone else. We are all connected. Everyone is equal. Recognizing that we are on colonized land, while we do this anti-oppression work, is a key part of building awareness.

Forget Kanye. I was in the presence of true greatness today, listening to Cheri DiNovo speak. She was so amazing and I, as a lesbian, owe her more than I could have realized before hearing her keynote address. She helped to introduce and get more LGBTQ legislation passed in Canada than anyone in our history. She performed the first gay marriage in Canada. She is spearheading the equal parents bill and trans rights bills. I was particularly touched by her advocacy for lesbian parents who – at this exact moment – don’t have legal rights to their partners’ babies. Even if conceived (of) together… if my wife were in a medical emergency and had carried our baby, I wouldn’t be allowed to leave the hospital with our baby or have legal rights regarding our child. This is horrifying and we need to change it now.  This woman exemplifies activism and humility, encouraging youth to be the change – as she closed with a story of her own ironic journey:

As a street-involved, young queer person, she spent nights, at 16 years old, sleeping outside in Toronto’s Queen’s Park… under the same window that she now looks out from in her office as a Member of Provincial Parliament.She went back to school and transformed her life… and subsequently, the lives of so many queer people in Canada.
DiNovo also spoke about the incredible vulnerability of the trans community, citing Toby Dancer and Toby’s Law, which she has been instrumental in passing. This law added ‘gender identity and gender expression’ to our Human Rights Code.  Ground breaking! Side note: there is a stained-glass window of Toby in a local church – perhaps the only one of a trans person in a church … in the world!

From politics, to short stories, to poetry and dance – the day was as diverse as the room.

When students come together, smiles on their faces, to celebrate activism, learning, leadership and equality, it’s no wonder the sun was shining!

Vegan lunches in the sunshine.

With some irony, the setting was a historic village, with old ‘general stores’ and juxtaposed against the past, we worked to make the future better for future generations.

I’m excited to see what lies ahead, as we venture through these doors, mindful of the past and energized for the long road that stretches before us.


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