Alright, it’s been almost two weeks since we had an LGBT awareness period and I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seat awaiting the next opportunity reflect on LGBT visibility.
If this is you, I’ve got great news: Today is the start of Pride Month which means we’ve got 30 full days ahead to fixate on LGBT everything.
I’m hoping you can sense my fake enthusiasm here.
Last year, one of my daughter’s friends enthusiastically asked her what our family would be doing to celebrate Pride Month. My daughter just kind of looked at her blankly because… well, we don’t do anything at all to celebrate Pride Month.
In our household we are not anti-Pride, but we’re not exactly pro-Pride either. While I appreciate Pride’s place in history and the important work that was done to bring LGBT people to mainstream acceptance, like many celebrations what exists today is a highly commercialized shell and bears little resemblance to its humble beginnings. It has become about big corporations pushing pride on television and all of their marketing and printing rainbow flags with transgender overlays on merchandize of all shapes and sizes.
But beyond the commercialism, recently we’ve also reached a point where individuals and organizations are accused of being homophobic or transphobic simply for respectfully choosing not participate in Pride celebrations.
This is a problem for two reasons: first, because choosing not to celebrate something doesn’t mean you are against it, and secondly because even if you are against it, in a democratic society we allow individuals agency to not subscribe to any particular ideological position.
Last month, I made a video about Norwich County’s decision not to fly a pride flag on their municipal flag pole. Norwich is a small farming community in rural Ontario and they’ve had a few LGBT flair ups over the past few years. This year the counsellors decided that the cleanest path forward was to simply not involve themselves in flying anything beyond federal, provincial and municipal flags in order to sidestep the identity politic controversies.
Since that video we’ve had more pride flag controversies at other school boards including Niagara District School Board and York Catholic District School Board, along with a councillor in Pickering to indicated that she won’t be participating in their municipal pride ceremony. Each of these have played out in similar matters with people accusing them of transphobia simply for not participating.
I won’t repeat everything from that video, but the Coles Notes was that giving people the option to fly a pride flag is freedom, but compelling anyone to fly a flag and accusing them of the phobias if they don’t is both authoritarian and symbolically meaningless. If you want to discuss the pride flag more, I’ll put a link in the comments.
So, Pride Month…. I get the argument that maybe it’s important to have a day to celebrate diverse identities and to highlight how far we’ve come and where there’s progress to be made. But many people are understandably getting a little disillusioned with the number of LGBT awareness periods that have come to take centre stage in the last few years.
Have you noticed that there’s quite a few awareness days?
There isn’t a definitive list and new ones seem to proliferate as quickly as bunny rabbits reproduce. But here’s a basic run down of the ones that receive international recognition:
Our calendar starts in the third week of February with Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. This is followed up by Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st, International Asexuality Day on April 6th, International Day of Pink on the second Wednesday of April, and Lesbian Visibility Day on April 26th.
We celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on May 17th and Agender Pride Day on May 19th, which leads nicely into Pride Month for the entirety of June.
July brings International Non-Binary People’s Day, and Drag Day, and we then get to take a quick breather to get ready for October, which trust me, we are going to need…
Because… October brings LGBT History Month, International Lesbian Day, National Coming Out Day, International Pronouns Day, Asexual Awareness Week, Genderfluid Visibility Week and Intersex Awareness Day. For those who are counting, that is more than one day a week throughout October.
We’ll then remember that we haven’t devoted a day solely to transgender individuals since March so we’ll give them the entirety of November for Trans Awareness Month. This is celebrated with Trans Parent Day on the first Sunday of the month, Transgender Awareness Week on the third week of the month, and Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th.
Now, I’m not here to say that any one of these awareness periods is bad per say, but does it not seem a tad unbalanced that we have this many days and months devoted to LGBT awareness? I’ll remind you that we have only one day a year where we honour those who died to fight for democracy, one day where we reflect on the importance of responsible environmental stewardship and one day to celebrate ground hog cognition.
And at least those days still exist because we are increasingly seeing traditional holidays and national celebrations being suppressed by our institutions. We have a day to celebrate our unity as a country but in the last few years some people have advocating very hard to cancel it. This past year saw controversies surrounding Valentine’s Day and Halloween as some school boards moved to de-emphasize them in the name of equity, health, and student harm reduction.
The barrage of new days of awareness combined with the stripping away of so many traditional celebrations is not making some people feel very positively towards the LGBT movement. And it’s so easy for people to take out that frustration on individuals like me amid the crossfire. I question whether these frequent awareness periods are actually helping achieve any of their objectives and instead might be causing more harm than good.
And this all comes down to how centrally we hold our gender and sexual identities.
Look, I’m transgender. That is part of my identity, but it isn’t the core of who I am and it isn’t the biggest part of what grounds me. For many individuals, their gender and sexuality will likely play a part of their identity but there will be so much more that also establishes the core of their being and placement within society. But being transgender, it’s easy to become fixated on your transition, your experience, and end up in a victim mentally. This doesn’t help anyone and I truly believe a healthy and balanced path forward requires working to help LGBT individuals de-centre identity as what makes up the core of their being.
But instead, we are doing the exact opposite and teaching a young generation that they should centre their identity around diverse sexual and gender identities. This spring my school board reported that 39% of their students identify within the LGBT spectrum. Some of those are certainly more passive identities, but we are increasingly seeing individuals adopt LGBT identities as the core of how they position themselves.
A few years ago, I had coffee with a young adult acquaintance. This individual was gay—and that’s all he was. What I mean by that is that it was pretty evident that his entire life, social circles, hobbies, interests, and perception of himself was fixated around his gay identity.
I actually asked him what else he had going on besides being gay and he literally told me: nothing. That was his main focus in life… being gay.
A few months later he confided that he wasn’t even sure if he was gay but he couldn’t give this up because his entire life and reputation was centred around his gayness. That is just one example of the dark side of over centralizing an identity.
As we move into June I want to remind everyone that it’s okay if you don’t feel like celebrating Pride Month and it’s okay if you’re not too keen on the Pride Flag. Some people are going to want to celebrate these things, and so long as we allow space for difference of opinion then we should all be able to get along just fine.