Last week the Government of Quebec launched their first campaign aimed at raising awareness of and reducing homophobia. The first part of the five-year, $7.1 million campaign consists of two French-language TV commercials (clips below) and an English-language radio ad (transcript). In all three ads the audience is presented with a recognizable relationship situation, for example in the radio ad a man tells his partner that he doesn’t want to go to the in-laws’ house for dinner. It isn’t until the partner replies that we know it’s a gay couple.
The ads target straight people and ask them to confront their attitudes and explore how open they really are to LGBT people. What I like most about the TV ads is how positive the tone is. They make it very clear that there’s nothing wrong or abnormal about simply being gay.
However, there are a couple aspects of the campaign that might be questionable. The first thing I noticed was that almost all of the people featured in the ads and the complementary website: fighthomophobia.gouv.qc.ca are white and professional-looking, which leads to a general tone of saying it’s okay to be gay as long as you meet the standards of white, middle-class relationship normalcy. Read more
This week the campaign started a new phase by launching a PSA that asks why homophobic language is still widely used and often accepted. The language could be considered NSFW, so fair warning:
Global TV donated the PSA production and the clip was created by No Homophobes partner Calder Bateman. Jeff McLean of Calder Bateman told Global News: “We thought the PSA or the TV spot would be a visual representation of the tweets that are coming in on the website…Hearing it from these people is quite shocking.”
In a statement Wells said, “We no longer tolerate racist language, weʼre getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we still see and hear homophobic and transphobic language in our society. While this language might not always be meant to be hurtful, we must not forget that words like “faggot” contribute greatly to the continued alienation and isolation of sexual and gender (LGBTQ) people, especially our youth.”
The PSA has already started getting internationalattention and will hopefully contribute to raising awareness and increasing constructive dialogue about homophobic language use in Canada and around the world.
The first time I visited nohomophobes.com it was an emotional experience. The site acts as a “social mirror”, capturing real-time use of homophobic slurs on Twitter, and it quickly becomes clear just how staggering a problem casual homophobia is.
I spoke to Dr. Kristopher Wells, Associate Director of the University of Alberta Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, which started the project earlier this year, about how this relatively simple Canadian idea has had such a wide impact.
Wells told me that the idea for No Homophobes came out of research on casual homophobia and how it manifests in our public education system. EGALE Canada’s national national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools, for example, found that 70% of LGBTQ youth hear phrases like “That’s so gay” every day in their schools. 10% of the time the phrases are actually coming from teachers.
“Sadly, for many LGBTQ youth this kind of casual homophobia is part of their daily reality,” said Wells.
The challenge was to put something together to bring public awareness to the issue of casual homophobia – not just in schools, but also in our society as a whole. The idea was to create a website that compiles tweets, using our four key words (“faggot”, “so gay”, “no homo”, and “dyke”), in real time, from all over English-speaking world. Wells and the iSMSS turned to their community partners, getting help from Calder Bateman in Edmonton and Burnkit in Vancouver to set up the website graphics and technical aspects.
Wells explained: “We wanted to do something different that was actually going to target and speak not only to youth, but also to the broader community – and we figured out pretty quickly that we needed to do something with social media, which is where most youth seem to live.” Read more
This blog entry uses an asterisk after the prefix trans- as a way to include all non-cisgender gender identities.
November 20th is the Trans* Day of Remembrance, a day that was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as trans*, each was a victim of violence based on bias against trans* people.
As a trans* identified person who works in social services, I am often asked to speak, write, or facilitate about trans* identities and the ways that trans* people can experience oppression. November is a time when many people ask if I am going to organize or attend a vigil on the 20th. Often, I am asked questions about my personal narrative and how I feel about my personal safety and the increased risk that I must experience not being cisgender.
I often choose to attend Trans* Day of Remembrance events, but not because of my own gender identity. I recognize that I hold many privileges; privileges that were not granted to many of the people whose names are read each year at vigils around the world. Many of these victims experienced multiple forms of oppression including class, race, and gender. Many of these victims were women of colour.
I am white and working class. My wife and I are both university students. Although, I am a survivor of poverty, homelessness, addiction, and survival sexual exploitation, I have many privileges that allow me to now live without fear of having my name read out at the annual vigils. Read more
As Gender Focus’ readership has grown over the past few years, we’ve encountered more situations where a few trolls visit the site and spend what seems a inordinate amount of time refusing to listen and/or trying to bait me or a contributor into one fallacious argument or another.
So, what do we do when we get a flood of comments like that?
I wanted that for Gender Focus. I wanted to strike a balance between allowing for debate and ensuring contributors and commenters feel safe expressing their opinions and not being subject to silencing tactics.
To that end, here are a couple of the key items in the policy: Read more
Now this is not a piece of new legislation, which would’ve had to be debated and voted upon in the House of Commons, but it is a change in regulation implemented by the Ministry of Transportation. In other words, the government could change this if they really wanted to, without requiring new legislation to be passed. Read more
I was a Brownie and then a Girl Guide when I was little, so when I saw the recent news about the Girl Scouts of America being boycotted by some Scouts who dislike the organization’s trans-inclusive policy, I wondered what the situation was for Canadian Girl Guides.
First some background on the US situation in case you weren’t aware:
The Girl Scouts of Colorado released a statement last fall after they initially rejected the enrollment of seven-year-old trans girl Bobbi Montoya, who has presented as female since age 2 with her parents’ approval. They reversed their decision, saying:
“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.
Our requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to best support these children, their families and the volunteers who serve them. In this case, an associate delivering our program was not aware of our approach. She contacted her supervisor, who immediately began working with the family to get the child involved and supported in Girl Scouts. We are accelerating our support systems and training so that we’re better able to serve all girls, families and volunteers.”
In protest, an LA Scouts leader disbanded her troop and three more troops in Louisiana disbanded. But the controversy continues with a recent video released by an (alleged) Girl Scout named Taylor, who calls for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies in protest of the trans-inclusive policy. The original video has been taken down but you can find many video responses (including from other Girl Scouts supporting the policy) on YouTube if you search “GSUSA Transgenders” (the title of the original video). GOOD has this to say about it:
More importantly, she appears not to know what the word “transgender” means. It’s clear no one ever sat her down and explained to her that trans women actually define themselves as women, not men in disguise. She makes no distinction between being trans and being a boy, erroneously stating that Girl Scouts has placed “transgender boys”—rather than “girls”—”throughout America without letting everyone know.” She seems to think trans people set out to deceive other people, rather than identifying with the gender they feel is right for them. Above all, Taylor’s video just proves how badly we need to educate kids about trans issues.