July 4, 2010

Take Pride in Solidarity!

Pride 2010 statement from the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League

The YCL-LJC is proud to celebrate the acceptance by the Toronto pride parade of the Anti-Israeli Apartheid contingent after a long hard fight, which happened after this statement was written.

This summer, millions of people from the LGBT communities and their allies across North America will fill the streets for Pride parades. On the 40th anniversary of the first gay pride celebrations, held in 1970 in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League send warmest greetings, and pledge our solidarity to the ongoing struggles for full equality.

The controversy around this year's Pride Parade in Toronto highlights the true meaning of these struggles. By trying to ban reference to Israel's apartheid policies, the parade organizers have committed the tragic mistake of sacrificing the rights of one group of oppressed people for the alleged protection of another.

We recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller regarding the rise of Hitler fascism: "First, they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I said nothing. Then, they came for the social democrats, but I was not a social democrat, so I said nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I said nothing. Then they came for me, but there was nobody left to speak out."

Fortunately, many are speaking out today, within the queer community and far beyond, in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in defense of free speech. These voices remind the world that Pride is about the right of individuals and peoples to live free from oppression, whether this takes the form of brutal homophobia or war crimes committed against the Palestinians.

In fact, the dynamic response of the LGBT communities to the banning of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has mobilized wider international solidarity with Palestine. Many leaders of the LGBT communities have returned their Pride Parade honours, calling on Pride Toronto to reverse this censorship, a demand which we whole-heartedly support.

Forty years after the first Pride Parades, we welcome the expansion of more queer-positive environments in the public realm, the growing numbers of trade unions with active Pride and LGBTQ caucuses, and the increase of gay-straight alliances, safe school spaces and "Pride proms" in our schools. These and other legal, political and cultural victories are the hard-won results of decades of efforts by the LGBTQ community and allies.

But much more remains to be achieved. The burning issue today is not how to sweet-talk corporate donors or pro-Israeli politicians, or to raise the visibility of the military in Pride events. The issue is the ongoing violence and hatred directed against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people, and those perceived as such by homophobes and gay-bashers.

Alarmingly, police-reported hate crimes are up sharply, according to a new Statistics Canada report. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation more than doubled from 2007 to 2008, a much greater increase than crimes based on religion or race/ethnicity. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were also more violent, and took place most often in cities such as Vancouver, Hamilton, London and Guelph. This report confirms the anecdotal evidence of a rise in gay-bashings in recent years.

We also know that same-sex marriage gains are threatened in the United States, and that the Harper Tories still hope to reverse queer rights if they win a majority government. 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.

Despite Canada's welcoming image, queer youth seeking asylum from persecution in other countries are still being extradited. Most LGBTQ students still report feeling unsafe at school, and prosecutors are often unwilling to prosecute vicious gay-bashings as hate crimes.

Globally, violent expressions of homophobia are on the rise, sometimes in response to courageous attempts by gay-rights groups to hold public events like our Pride Parades. The struggle to end the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression faces stubborn resistance in many countries. Working class queer people suffer vicious discrimination, along with women and racialized communities who bear the brunt of neoliberal economic and social policies.

ILGA, the association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexed peoples, reports that 76 United Nations member states still criminalize consensual same-sex acts among adults. In seven countries, punishment for homosexuality still includes the death penalty.

But progress for equality is being achieved in countries such as Cuba, South Africa and Nicaragua. The myth that queer rights can only be won in wealthy capitalist countries is shattered by these advances, and by the reality that homophobic and racist concepts are exported from North America and Europe. We also note that Canada is one of only 15 countries which shamefully legislates a higher age of consent for homosexual activities.

Despite the cultural and legal shift in favour of equality and diversity, homophobia and transphobia remain entrenched within the Canadian state.

Stephen Harper voted against same-sex marriage, and has left his options open on abortion if he wins a majority. He snubbed the 2007 international AIDS conference in Toronto, and appoints anti-choice, anti-gay judges to the courts. "Focus on the Family" zealots are found among top Tory advisors, who promote the patriarchal family model.

At a time when the so-called "war on terror" is used to remove civil liberties for racialized communities, we must always remember that "an injury to one is an injury to all." Just like racism, sexism, and national chauvinism, homophobia and transphobia are weapons to divide working people. Equality and human rights must be expanded to include full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and expression, and gender identity.

This demand is not "divisive." It is a vital part of the wider movement to drive the Harper Tories out of power. Today the ruling class is using the economic meltdown to carry out a vicious assault on all hard-won social equality gains. A broad democratic and social resistance is needed to block and reverse this corporate agenda. Together, we must build a powerful coalition around a genuine people's alternative to this crisis - a common front of Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women, seniors, immigrant and racialized communities, environmentalists, labour, peace activists, the LGBTQ community, farmers, and many other allies.

Ultimately, this struggle in our communities and workplaces, and at the ballot box, will defeat the right and open the door to a people's coalition government. The goal of the Communist Party is to win fuller social freedom and genuine people's power in a socialist Canada, where our economy will be owned by all and democratically controlled. It will then become possible to eradicate the intersecting forms of exploitation and oppression which we face today, while defending our sovereignty and protecting our common environment.

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