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Hundreds of People Rallied in Vancouver against Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate. Here’s What They Had to Say.

“We want to be able to live our lives in peace and as full members of society, along with everybody else”

A crowd of over 100 people gathered in Vancouver last week carrying rainbow flags at the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza as part of a nationwide movement calling on governments to take action against the growing hate towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

The National Rainbow Week of Action, led by the Society of Queer Momentum, united 2SLGBTQIA+ advocates and allies across Canada to speak up for a more free, equal and socially just future for queer and trans people.

The Rainbow Week of Action was organized as a counter-movement to advance 2SLGBTQIA+ rights after two years of escalated hate-motivated protests against the community.

Photo: Megavarshini G. Somasundaram (PressProgress)

In British Columbia specifically, protests have been seen at highway overpasses, Drag Queen Storytime events and even in the streets denouncing SOGI-123 education.

“Over the past 20 years, we have made immense progress on 2SLGBTQIA+ equality, but discrimination, hate and inequality persist,” read a statement released by the Rainbow Week of Action. With anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate on the rise, the progress we’ve made is at risk.”

The event marked the largest political action in Canada advocating for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights in decades. A series of “rainbow rallies” —including speeches and performances—were held in cities and provinces across the country from May 11–17.

Several of Canada’s largest unions are supporting the Rainbow Week of Action. The largest private sector union in Canada, Unifor, attended the Vancouver rally to show solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Unions in Canada have previously come out to defend workers against far-right Anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate groups—demonstrating solidarity across movements.

The Vancouver rally began with the distribution of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, water bottles and posters that read “United for rainbow equality” and “More free and equal Canada”. The rally took place on the same day as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

Photo: Megavarshini G. Somasundaram (PressProgress)

Several people who spoke to PressProgress were willing to share their views and solidarity with the queer and trans community but wanted to remain anonymous or not be identified by their full names for fear of targeted harassment by far-right groups.

“I am here to support queer rights and trans rights and ensure that people know this matters. We cannot afford to be inactive any longer; otherwise, we will lose our rights,” Tim, one rally attendee, told PressProgress.

Tim, who was holding up a sign that read, ‘Trans rights are human rights,’ added, “Our children and queer youth should have access to necessary life-saving resources and social services.”

The rally had live music, performances from Indigenous queer artists and speeches showing solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Banners that read, ‘Trans rights are human rights’ and ‘Queers stand against Israeli apartheid Vancouver’ were also displayed throughout the rally. The queer and trans communities took the rally as a platform to express their solidarity with Palestine.

River Pengelly, one of the organizers for the Vancouver rally said right-wing politicians have shown support for the rise of protests and hatred against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community occurring in Canada.

“There has been a significant increase in hatred and bigotry towards 2SLGBTQIA+ groups coming from what used to be a visible minority on the right. Now, politicians are jumping on this bandwagon; this wave of hatred which we see to become popular among people,” Pengelly told PressProgress.

“We want to be able to live our lives in peace and as full members of society, along with everybody else,” Pengelly said.

“Anyone who is queer, trans, or who belongs to a marginalized community would have experienced some form of discrimination.” Pengelly said that the anti-LGBTQ attacks seen regularly on the news and social media is no longer a phenomenon coming from the United States but also from Canada.

Pengelly also pointed out the different responses between far-right protesters and their solidarity rally.

“For months, a transphobic flag flew over the North Vancouver bridge, and during that time, cops did not take any action. And now look at them, monitoring this demonstration,” Pengelly said.

According to Pengelly, these instances have given people the courage to not only have hate within themselves but also to speak about, act on and push their bigotry into the world.

“In fact, they can even win elections,” Pengelly said.

Photo: Megavarshini G. Somasundaram (PressProgress)

Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre received backlash for his remarks against transgender women in “female” spaces. Earlier this year, Poilievre told reporters, “female spaces should be exclusively for females, not for biological males,” but added that “it is unclear … what reach federal legislation would have.”

Politicians in multiple provinces, including Alberta and Saskatchewan, are beginning to jump in and try to weigh in on issues that, frankly, they have no business with, Pengelly says.

“Politicians are not doctors.They have no place when it comes to anyone’s bodily autonomy, whether that’s trans healthcare or abortion rights,” Pengelly said.

She added that although the hatred appears to be increasing, it is actually coming from a very vocal minority of people.

“We have an even larger and louder majority of people supporting 2SLBTQIA+ rights. They want to express their views but are uncertain about how or where to do so. In order to create a safe platform for people to express themselves and ensure their voices are heard, a key component of the Rainbow Week of Action is a letter-writing campaign through RainbowEquality.ca,” Pengelly said.

The key calls to action include asking elected officials to “publicly condemn the rise in anti-SLGBTQIA+ hate taking place across Canada, create long-term funding programs for 2SLGBTQIA+ health, community and social services” and “improve 2SLGBTQIA+ health and well-being, including access to and coverage of gender-affirming healthcare.”

“We stand against hatred and bigotry, demanding better government support for trans rights and healthcare in solidarity, companionship and allyship with marginalized communities,” Pengelly said.

 

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Megavarshini G. Somasundaram
Labour Reporting Intern
Megavarshini G. Somasundaram is PressProgress' 2024 labour reporting intern and a Masters of Journalism student at UBC.

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