By Bradley Turcotte
Fifty years ago, two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and trans (2SLGBTQ+) Canadians staged a protest on Parliament Hill seeking equity and the end of discriminatory government policies. The goals of the We Demand Rally of Aug. 28, 1971 have come to fruition, including removing a ban on gay men immigrating to Canada, and allowing 2SLGBTQ+ individuals to serve in the military.
Canadians identifying along the queer spectrum continue to face challenges, including the blood donation waiting period for men who have sex with men, the lack of a national ban on conversion therapy, and access to trans-affirmative health care. For 2SLGBTQ+ people with intersecting identities, recent events such as the discovery of mass graves at former residential school sites, and anti-Muslim attacks in Ontario increase their sense of oppression.
The theme of Capital Pride 2021 is “We Still Demand.” We have come a long way since 1971, Capital Pride Chairperson Geneviève Colverson says, but in terms of inclusivity, the 2SLGBTQ+ community has work to do to become truly united.
“There is this divide and a lot of times the intersecting identities within the 2SLGBTQ+ sphere are not reconciled,” Colverson observes.
“There is still a lot of work to be done around identity, gender markers and name changes, marginalized queer folks, newcomers, language barriers, folks with disabilities — there is a still a lot of work,” Colverson says. “A lot of the laws that have been enacted in the last 50 years that are meant to protect and respect queer folks were created with a very colonized view: they have been created for very privileged queer folks. There is still a lot of work to be done to create the space for an intersectional approach to LGBT rights and their place in society.”
Capital Pride Executive Director Osmel B. Guerra Maynes agrees with Colverson and says the community is working to educate around the issue.
“Of course the community has a problem with racism, as does every other group out there,” he says. “At CP, we are doing many things to address this.”
Born in the Dominican Republic, Maynes is Capital Pride’s first executive director. A Carleton University political science grad, he has worked for the most prolific queer organizations in the country, including Toronto’s The 519 and Qmunity in Vancouver.
“I first came to Canada in 2003. I have a Latin American background, from DR, where we are not free to express ourselves. By free, I mean living as our truth as part of the LGBTQ2S spectrum,” Maynes says. “For me, I wanted to make sure that when I came here, I was able to live my life to the fullest.”
“I’ve always wanted to provide space for folks who look like me,” he adds.
Capital Pride’s Educate series of programming strives to amplify not only the voices of people of colour, but other marginalized identities including people living with disabilities, Maynes says. Yet it is up to community members to listen and actively participate in reshaping what it means to be 2SLGBTQ+, he continues.
Acknowledging and addressing the exclusionary attitudes within the 2SLGBTQ+ community is crucial for progress as a minority group, Colverson adds. But as we emerge from a global pandemic and celebrate Pride, the community is stronger and hopeful, she says.
“As we move forward into 2021 and beyond, at this junction of the anniversary of the 1971 protest, we are starting to ask for a sense of belonging within the community and elsewhere,” Colverson says. “It’s not enough to slap a rainbow sticker on it and call it ‘gay.’ You’ve got to go further than that in terms of commitment to the community.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic pushed last year’s festival to be completely virtual, but the 2021 schedule will see programming that is a hybrid of in-person and online.
The year’s events include family-focused and age-appropriate activities for children, and several events featuring the city’s drag performers. Trans star of the FX series Pose, Dominique Jackson, is scheduled to appear.
For a full list of this year’s programming and events visit capitalpride.ca