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3 changes Hamilton's LGBTQ community wants to see

From transgender rights to safe spaces, here are three changes Hamilton's LGBTQ community would like to see in the city.
In celebration of Pride week, CBC Hamilton asked some prominent members of the city’s LGBTQ community about what successes Hamilton's had in recent years. Here’s what they had to say. (Mktp/Flickr)

Much has changed for Hamilton's LGBTQ community in the last 20 years.

This week's Pride festivities mark the two-decade anniversary of a historic ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission that forced the city to officially recognize Hamilton Pride.

Since then, the city and organizations like Hamilton police have taken an active role in Pride celebrations.

"This year's event offers us a chance to celebrate the many successes we have achieved together in the last 20 years," said Jill Davies, who was part of the trio of citizens who sought to have the city recognize Pride.

"It also offers us an important chance to reflect on the challenges many members of our communities still must overcome."

In celebration of this year's Pride festivities, CBC Hamilton asked some prominent members of the city's LGBTQ community about what changes Hamilton needs. Here's what they had to say:

1. Accepting transgender people

The number one LGBTQ-related change we need in Hamilton is a greater acceptance of trans people. In the downtowns of many cities, trans people of diverse kinds and ages are visibly flourishing in growing numbers. 

It is increasingly common to find downtown Toronto and Montreal trans youth working in jobs that have them interacting with the public. Sadly, there is much less of this phenomenon in Hamilton. Given our size, there should be more – though this is not to say that Montreal and Toronto are perfect.

I have seen trans people harassed on downtown Hamilton streets several times. The result is that many trans people suffer trauma and (in addition to the harassment) self-harm. Many leave Hamilton. 

We need to digest that equality of gender expressions and gender identities is fundamental. 

– Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor

2. Build allies and heal from within

Change needs to come from within and from without. From outside the LGBT2Q community we need to continue building ally conversations. As an out and proud Irish cabinet minister said after the yes vote on same sex marriage, "People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, our friends and co-workers and colleagues, we're a majority."

So we need allies to work with us to create majority-driven policy changes that ensure our flagship organizations are creating inclusive and safe workplaces, eliminating harassment and abuse and ensuring a glass ceiling doesn't appear for LGBT2Q people when it comes to career advancement.

From within, we need to find ways to heal ourselves, or recognize the healing a sibling needs, from the oppression we've faced on an individual basis so we can pull together and work as a community of communities on shared goals of equity and inclusion.

We say there is no hierarchy of oppression – that it's all wrong and that's the truth. But when we try to pull together we forget who the oppressor is in terms of dominant culture and start to oppress each other as we see one rise. Horizontal hostility needs to end.

– Deirdre Pike, LGBTQ activist

3. More safe spaces

I would like to see more safe spaces in Hamilton for LGBTQ youth. Kids can't always find solace at home or at school.

Gay kids have a higher rate of suicide compared to straight kids, and sexual orientation is one of the highest causes of hate crimes.

Bullying doesn't stop at the school bus like when I was a kid. It's brought home through social media platforms and text messaging. Safe public spaces for kids to be who they are without judgment and to seek help is a must have for the City of Hamilton.

– Chris Farias, Kitestring Branding Studio

These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

adam.carter@cbc.ca | @AdamCarterCBC

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