July 6, 2012

Push back the bigots!

Poster by the Young Communists of Spain


Pride 2012 statement from the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League

     Pride 2012 events across Canada this summer will celebrate impressive achievements by the LGBTQ communities and their allies. The Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League send warmest greetings and solidarity to Pride participants, and to the ongoing struggles for full equality. But this is also a time to push back against the bigots and right‑wing politicians who want to roll back our gains. The corporate‑driven "austerity" cuts to social programs and education have the sharpest negative impact on the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community, including trans, two‑spirited, racialized queers and young people. The cuts heavily impact women, Aboriginal peoples, and racialized groups, and make it far more difficult to implement significant advances towards equality.

     The past year has seen important struggles to dismantle the barriers of transphobia and homophobia. The continued expansion of queer‑positive environments in the mass media, the labour movement, and public schools is particularly welcome. Even in the traditionally homophobic arena of male professional sports, the "you can play" campaign is sending a powerful message that gay athletes must be treated with respect.

     The growing acceptance of marriage equality, the increase of gay‑straight alliances, the vote by the Ontario Legislature to enshrine "gender identity" and "gender expression" in the provincial Human Rights code, the defeat of attempts to deny civic funding to Pride Toronto, and other legal, political and cultural victories are the hard‑won results of decades of efforts by the LGBTQ community and our allies.

     But those who spread fear and bigotry will not give up, and they have powerful friends in the Conservative caucus of Stephen Harper. These are the forces behind the shameful attack on LGBTQ and queer‑positive candidates in last fall's school board elections in British Columbia, and the persistent attempts to block gay‑straight alliances in Ontario Catholic schools.

     Queer bashing is on the rise. According to Statistics Canada, police‑reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation remained far higher during 2010 than a few years previously. Two‑thirds of this category of crimes are considered violent, yet prosecutors are often unwilling to treat gay‑bashings as hate crimes. Despite the "It Gets Better" campaign and anti‑bullying initiatives, most LGBTQ students still report feeling unsafe at school.

     A law to extend protections to trans people under the Canadian Human Rights Act has passed second reading in the House of Commons. However, to gain the support of a few Conservatives, Bill C‑279 was weakened by removing "gender expression" and by adding a definition for "gender identity," amendments which will narrow the potential scope of legal protections.

     The cost of delaying full equality for trans people would be tragic. This is not a "marginal" issue; trans people are 10.3% of the LGBTQ population, and face huge medical costs, higher unemployment, less access to housing, widespread intimidation at work, and lack of legal protections.

     Despite attempts to hide their destructive social agenda, the Harper Tories now aim not only to reverse queer rights but also the decades of hard‑fought gender equality gains by women. Right‑wing forces continue to scapegoat the LGBTQ community and racialised groups, to divide working class resistance against finance capital, corporate bailouts and global environmental plunder.

     And now Bill C‑31, adopted by the Harper government, will insure that many gay asylum seekers are rejected and quickly deported. By designating so‑called "safe" countries of origin, the legislation makes the process of entering Canada far more complex and difficult for refugees who are fleeing homophobic and transphobic threats and attacks.

     Globally, the struggle to end the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression faces stubborn resistance. Violent expressions of homophobia are on the rise in many countries. Working class queer people suffer discrimination, along with women and racialized communities who bear the brunt of neoliberal economic and social policies.

     ILGA, the global association of 900 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexed groups, reports that 78 United Nations member states still criminalize consensual same‑sex acts among adults. In five countries, punishment for homosexuality still includes the death penalty.

     On the positive side, the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed the first UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution affirms the universality of human rights, and condemns acts of violence and discrimination, sending an important signal of support to human rights defenders. As the ILGA notes, considerable progress has been made on recognition of LGBTI rights in recent years, but the pace remains too slow, and there have been reversals in some countries.

     Of course the myth that queer rights can only be won in wealthy capitalist countries is shattered by advances in countries such as Cuba, Brazil, and South Africa, and by the reality that homophobic and racist concepts are deliberately exported from North America and Europe.

     Homophobia and transphobia are weapons to divide working people; just like racism, sexism, and national chauvinism. Today, those in charge of our economy, the ruling class, use the economic crisis and the so‑called "war on terror" to justify their assault on workers and social equality. But "an injury to one is an injury to all." Our unity will be strengthened by adopting full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and expression, and gender identity.

     This demand is a vital element of the broad democratic and social resistance against the corporate agenda of austerity and war. Together, we must build a powerful coalition around a genuine people's alternative to put people's needs before corporate greed ‑ a common front of labour, Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women, seniors, farmers, immigrant and racialized communities, environmentalists, peace activists, our LGBTQ community, and many other allies.

     Ultimately, this struggle in our communities and workplaces, in the streets and at the ballot box, can defeat the Harper Tories and open the door to a people's coalition government. The goal of the Communist Party is to win fuller social equality and genuine people's power in a socialist Canada, where our economy and resources will be socially owned and democratically controlled. This historic advance will make it possible to eradicate the intersecting forms of exploitation and oppression which we all face today. We urge you to join the Communist Party and the Young Communist League to achieve a liberated society in which, as Karl Marx said, "the freedom of each is the condition for the freedom of all."

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