6 Canadian LGBTQ Activists that You Should Know About
June is celebrated as LGBTQ* Pride Month in communities across Canada and the United States. This month celebrates sexual and gender diversity, promotes equal rights and increases the visibility of these communities. Pride month also brings attention to the discrimination and violence that people in LGBTQ communities face.
To celebrate the month, we want to share some courageous LGBTQ advocates that have made transformative change in Ontario.
Jim Egan is most famous for taking the case for same-sex couples to get spousal benefits to court starting in 1986. In 1994, the case reached the Supreme Court, though they did not rule in favour of extending spousal benefits to same sex couples. However, the judges unanimously decided to list sexual orientation in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Egan also wrote letters and commentaries in newspapers around gay issues starting in the 1940s.
Jeremy Dias After coming out at his Ontario high school, Jeremy experienced bullying. When his school would not let him start a Gay/Straight Alliance or Rainbow Club he took the school board to the human rights commission and won. Dias used the money he received to start the Centre for Gender and sexual Diversity, formerly Jer’s Vision, an organization working to improve acceptance in classrooms and workplaces across the country. They also drive the Day of Pink initiative, which is celebrated internationally as the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, Transphobia and Transmisogyny.
Nancy Nicol is a documentary filmmaker, activist and professor at York University. Through her films she has documented the history of LGBTQ issues in Ontario and Canada. She is also doing research engaging with LGBTQ communities globally to explore how these groups fight for human rights and resist the criminalization of gender diversity and sexual orientation around the globe.
Richard Fung As an artist and filmmaker, he looked into gay Asian sexuality and launched the Gay Asians Toronto group. His aim was to create a sense of inclusivity and belonging for gay Asian Canadians after attending the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that was held in 1979.
Douglas Stewart is a gay rights activist and was the founding Executive Director of the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention. He works mainly within Black communities to provide awareness and support to issues around gay rights.
Gloria Eshkibok is a two-spirit Indigenous activist from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She is an actor who shares stories, is a lead vocalist for the Unceded Band, and sings with the Sweetgrass City Singers. As a victim of the 60s Scoop she also speaks out about her experiences.
These inspiring activists have shifted the conversations about LGBTQ rights in Ontario and Canada, by helping bring forward a multiplicity of narratives and experiences.
Workplace Tips: How can you inspire the next generation of activists?
• Create a safe space for gender and sexually diverse people in your workplace (like positive space signs or another employee driven initiative)
• Put up a rainbow flag in your work space and keep it up year round
• Create opportunities to participate in LGBTQ community events (like fundraisers, walks, or the Pride Parade. Click here for listings of Pride events in Ontario.)
• Always challenge inappropriate language such as ‘that’s so gay’ or other homophobic and transphobic comments.
How will you celebrate LGBT Pride Month at your workplace? We want to hear your ideas! Share them with us by emailing your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @harmonymovement.
Where to find more resources on LGBTQ issues:
Egale Canada – https://egale.ca/
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/
Rainbow Health Ontario – http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/
Queer Ontario – http://queerontario.org/
Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives – http://www.clga.ca/
LGBTQIA Resource Center – http://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/index.html
Queer Hall of Fame – http://www.qhalloffame.ca/
*LGBTQ are “the initials used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning and queer people. A broader range of identities is also sometimes implied or may be represented more explicitly by the initials LGBTTIQQ2SA, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-spirited and asexual.” Educator’s Equity Companion Guide, Harmony Movement, 2014. http://www.harmony.ca/shop/