With July around the corner I want to wish all of you a very happy Pride month!
Although our own Pride here in Halifax happens in August, June is a time for celebration across Canada and the United States in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Nowadays, we associate Pride with celebration: parades and concerts decorated with exuberant rainbows, a time for the community to come together openly and joyfully. Despite this current image, it’s important to remember that LGBTQ+ rights are a complex and ongoing conversation.
In 1996 the Canadian government included sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, then in 2005 same gender marriage was legalised. Despite these legal victories, it wasn’t until 2019 that the state no longer concerned itself with the sexual acts conducted between consenting adults.
Legal protection and discriminaiton of LGBTQ+ people coexist in our laws to this day. With the recent federal bill baning conversion therapy, a harmful range of practices aimed at “curing” people of their non-heterosexuality, set to go to the Senate after passing 263 to 63; I’m reminded of when a similar bill was passed here in Nova-Scotia in 2018. There were however significant loopholes in the bill that allowed so-called “mature minors” between the ages of 16 and 18 to consent to this practice, not to mention it was only effectively banned for those under 16.
On the national level, gay and bisexual men are barred from donating blood if they have had sex with another man in the past three months, a policy which the Canadian Blood Services has extended to transgender women. A policy that is based in homphobic and transphobic stereotypes dating back to the HIV and AIDS pandemic from the 1980s. Discriminatory health policies don’t limit themselves to blood, but even extend to organ and tissue donation; effectively creating barriers based on misinformation rather than scientific evidence.
Canadian Blood Services are not alone in their discriminatory policies, as these practices are commonplace across the world. In his article, Dr. Blair Bigham details how the United Kingdom is set to lift this ban, one of very few countries who are taking such measures. Calling out these policies on being based on outdated stereotypes and not on the behaviour of individual blood donors.
So, while I encourage you all to celebrate that we’ve made great strides towards equality during this celebratory month, I also urge you to continue thinking about how there is still more work to be done. Pride month may be coming to a close but the fight for equality is not.