Andrea Houston is a reporter at the LGBT bi-weekly magazine Xtra. Her writing and advocacy helped bring about the passage of Bill 13, a piece of provincial legislation that forces Ontario’s Catholic school boards to allow their students to form gay-straight alliances. In recognition of her work Houston was named Honoured Dyke; she will lead the Toronto Pride Dyke March on June 30. Here, as part of a special Pride Week series of posts, she describes what Pride means to her.
This year, this Pride, we celebrate victory.
This month, two new laws were passed in Ontario that protect queer people and push the sexual—and gender—diversity movement forward. This is reason to celebrate.
The Accepting Schools Act, Bill 13, ensures queer students in Catholic schools can no longer be prohibited from starting gay-straight alliances (GSAs), and they now have the legal power to call the groups whatever they wish.
Toby’s Act, pushed passionately since 2007 by New Deomcrat MPP Cheri DiNovo, opened up the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression. This change gives trans people status as humans, and protection under the law.
I am so proud to say my contribution to those victories has been an important one, especially in the case of Bill 13, which was tabled following my coverage of the battle, led by student activists, for GSAs in Catholic schools. After breaking the story in January 2011, I always tried to give queer youth voice, agency, and support. Their activism pushed legislators to action.
These laws are huge accomplishments that we all played a vital role in achieving. Ontario is a different place today because of this—a more welcoming and accepting place for queer people.
And it’s not every year we can say that.
So often we are under threat from religion, government, corporations, and our own families. Queer and trans people are still fighting for true liberation. Same-sex marriage is not full equality. Far, far from it.
The queer checklist remains long. Bill 13 may be law, but there’s still the question of enforcement. Catholic schools continue to teach that being gay is “disordered” and “depraved.” Bill C-279, the federal bill to include gender identity in the Charter and Criminal Code, still has yet to pass. In long-term care facilities, LGBT seniors are driven back into the closet by homophobia and transphobia. Sex-worker rights are currently being fought in the courts. HIV is still criminalized by Canadian law. Queer refugees fleeing fundamentalist countries need far more support from Canada. Likewise, Canada needs to do a much better job speaking out against anti-gay laws, censorship, and human rights abuses around the world.
I think back to the first Pride, an uprising triggered by activists.
The first Pride was a picnic in 1972 at Hanlan’s Point. Then, in 1981, following the bathhouse raids, Pride suddenly became a political movement. Activists marched, rallied, and fought for change.
In 1986, after the introduction of sexual orientation into the Ontario Human Rights Code, I’m sure the Church and Wellesley Village celebrated and danced in the streets.
That’s how I feel this year. This Pride Week, I’ll be dancing. I will enjoy this moment.
Then, on July 2, together as a community, we will dust off the glitter and continue to rally. We will continue to fight. We will continue to demonstrate.
We will continue to win.
And that epitomizes what Pride means to me.