I am usually very busy during the month of June attending conferences, community events, social gatherings, parties and culminating with my favourite event of the month: “The pride parade”
I have had the privilege and the honor to walk with thousands of women and men from all different paths of life, from all around the world celebrating PRIDE.
Why I walk?
I walk to celebrate the progress we have achieved as a community in Canada and in the world, as well as our rights and freedom to live without fear.
I walk honouring the life of the brave women and men who came before me and fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.
I walk thinking about the passion and bravery of human rights defenders from all around the world, specially the ones fighting in countries with homophobic and repressive governments.
I walk for the children and youth who are constantly harassed for being “different” and for the ones who decided to end their lives rather than face the hate and rejection of their families, churches, and communities.
I walk for my sisters and brothers from all around the world, who are forced to be silent or face stigma, discrimination, violence, imprisonment, physical punishment and in extreme cases death.
I walk for the LGBTQ+ immigrants, refugees and newcomers to Canada with the hope that they could learn, heal and make their dreams come true in this great nation.
I walk for the ones who are so afraid to come out to walk with us, with the hope that one day they could join us.
I walk for Cesar, a Mexican child who was harassed, mocked, rejected and discriminated in his neighborhood, school and church without anyone to defend him.
I walk for that child who used to suffer in silence and pray to change.
I walk for the teenager who tried hard to reject his nature, who felt sad, alone and hopeless.
I walk for that young man who once was convinced that to deny his true self was a good idea and the best option to avoid rejection, discrimination and harassment.
I walk for the brave Cesar who one day took the decision to be himself, came out of the closet and started a new life as a gay man. It was not easy. It took him years to learn and unlearn, years of internal work to overcome trauma, shame and internalized homophobia. It took him years to feel comfortable, safe and free in his own skin. It took him years to feel ready to stand up for his rights and the rights of his own community.
The process continues. It’s a journey that never ends. It’s an ongoing process that requires not only a personal commitment, but the support of society and all their social institutions to create a world where everyone feel safe, respected and included.
So this year, I am not walking. That is why I am writing this open letter to ask you to get rid of your prejudices, bias and fears and become an ally. A real one. If you don’t know how, just imagine that everything that you want for you and your children is what you want for us.
We don’t need more people telling us where our human rights end. We want equality. We want the full recognition of our human rights. It is not that difficult.
To my colleagues working in social and specifically in settlement services, we have the responsibility to be informed, educated and trained to provide effective and appropriate services for LGBTQ+ immigrants and refugees who are often marginalized within multiple communities including the LGBTQ+ community.
As a service provider, I want to work in an environment free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. I want to feel welcomed, respected and included. A “Happy Pride” social media post is not enough. We need actions, programs, education, determination to work for everyone in our communities. “Everyone” includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersex. They are your colleagues, acquaintances, friends and family members.
I want to feel like you really care about the struggles and challenges of the community I belong to as I care when we together challenge social inequality, violence against women, discrimination, racism or islamophobia.
This year, we are not walking in a parade, but I invite you to walk everywhere you go feeling very proud of yourself!
It’s Pride Month. Here’s what you need to know
A brief history of Pride in Canada
Positive Spaces Initiative – OCASI
The 519. Community Centre
Free and Equal – United Nations
LGBTI Rights in Canada