On May 17, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Canadian Association of University Teachers recognizes those who have worked tirelessly to combat discrimination, harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer and two-spirited (LGBTQ2S) communities. The eradication of homophobia and transphobia is crucial for the realization of an equitable and just society.
While there have been important advances through legal challenges, education campaigns, and legislative changes, homophobia and transphobia still resonate throughout many workplaces, schools, and communities around the world.
The social, physical, economic, and psychological harms resulting from these forms of discrimination are stark. Suicide rates among LGBTQ2S youth remain overwhelmingly high, as do incidences of violence and bullying in our communities and on our campuses. When schools and post-secondary institutions ignore or downplay oppressive and discriminatory incidences instigated by ignorance around gender expression and sexual orientation, access to education is compromised.
Internationally, many nations continue to permit or legislate punitive actions against LGBTQ2S communities, compromising their civil rights to life, liberty, and security. In 2011, it was reported that 76 of the United Nations’ 192 member countries had laws on the books criminalizing homosexual behavior. It was also reported that at least 5 of these countries impose the death penalty as punishment for same-sex relations.
Until 1969, it was a crime to be gay in Canada. We have seen many advances for LGBTQ2S communities since then, including more recently the amendment of human rights codes in Ontario and the Northwest Territories to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination. Federally, Bill C-279 passed third reading in parliament, amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include “gender identity”. CAUT supports Gay-Straight Alliances in schools and calls on schools to end bans against such associations aimed to promote diversity and acceptance.
CAUT supports the expansion of positive spaces in workplaces and on campuses, including: expanding gender-neutral washrooms, university policies that support staff and students to self-identify their gender, anti-oppression training available for students and university personnel, and other campus educational campaigns aimed to end all forms of discrimination.
CAUT encourages its member associations to ensure that collective agreements and employer policies make reference to “gender identity” and “gender expression” in regards to harassment and non-discrimination, that health and leave benefits meet the needs of transitioning members and that designated groups under employment equity provisions are expanded to include LGBTQ2S.
On this global day opposing homophobia and transphobia, CAUT stands in solidarity and pride with LGBTQ2S communities, activists and allies to end violence, discrimination and harassment.