Rainbow rally urges government for action on global 2SLGBTQIA+ rights

Hundreds gathered at Vancouver Art Gallery for an inclusive approach to global human rights issues

a rainbow pride flag hanging off a brick building
PHOTO: Anastasiia Chepinska / Unsplash

By: Yashita Dhillon, News Writer

On May 17, a rally for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights took place at the Vancouver Art Gallery. This event was led by the Society of Queer Momentum Canada, which is a movement founded by 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations to combat the challenges faced by the queer community. The rally coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. 

May 1117 marked the first National Rainbow Week in Canada, which is a movement of solidarity and advocacy for queer rights across the country, and calls for governmental actions and policies to protect these rights. Pride Month is celebrated internationally in June, which highlights the history of struggle the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and their achievements. Instead of commemorating the past, National Rainbow Week looks toward the future.

Throughout the week, over 25 rallies took place across the country, including in other major cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Fredericton. This week of activism was started by Momentum Canada, in partnership with Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+ advocacy groups Fierté Canada Pride and the Enchanté Network to urge governments and policy makers to promote equality and address anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate.

The Peak spoke with River Pengelly, an organizer with the Vancouver Trans March.

“We’ve seen so many attacks from the far-right and establishment politicians recently. We wanted to demand better from our government on queer equality, trans healthcare, youth safety, as well as demonstrate Indigenous and Palestinian solidarity,” said Pengelly. 

Canada has witnessed anti-queer and anti-trans sentiment over the past few years. In Saskatchewan, a new law requires parental permission for students to change their pronouns. 

“It’s clear that the government policy and decision making on this issue wasn’t thoughtful or based on any evidence,” said Cee Strauss, a senior staff lawyer specializing in trans rights \with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, noting a “an anti-transgender wave happening across the country.” 

Alberta’s new law plans to rescind protections for trans and queer youth, which many argue undermines their healthcare and bodily autonomy. “I have witnessed firsthand the struggles faced by children who are brave enough to express their true gender identity, said Catie Jones, a United Steelworkers Union member and mother of a transgender child in Alberta. “This is not just about my child, it’s about every transgender child in Alberta. Our children deserve the right to their own gender identity and expression, as well as rights over their bodies.” 

“Most importantly we want politicians currently in power to do more than pay our community lip service with pretty pink-washed words and to keep their promises and commitments to trans and queer rights,” Pengelly said. “We chose speakers from within our community whose intersections of experience we felt were necessary to hear from.”

“Queer rights are being used as one of many justifications for the ongoing Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people,” she said. “This completely ignores the fact that queer Palestinians not only exist but are dying far more quickly to Israeli weapons.” 

This references the belief that Muslim nations are inherently homophobic or misogynistic and in need of intervention from western nations. According to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, this exploits LGBTQIA+ rights to project a progressive image [of the west] while concealing Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies oppressing Palestinians.” The goal of the rally was to make sure that voices of “queer and trans Palestinians in our community were heard and centered,” Pengelly added.

The rally also highlighted the role of youth led justice in the campaign for 2SLGBTQIA+ community. “Youth are the ones who have to deal with this head-on, not only in school but also at home,” Pengelly said. “Their voices are incredibly important. It’s their future that is being determined and fought for right now.”

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