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LGBTQ+ and Trans Canadians on Canada 150 | Flygirl
Posted by Mandy Randhawa on June 29, 2017
What Canada 150 Means to 7 Queer & Trans Canadians (Pt 2)
For Canada 150, we’re sharing stories from our community that offer a different perspective on what it means to live in this country. Our community isn’t just lesbian, or queer, or white. It’s lesbian and queer and white and Indigenous and trans and black and… you get the idea.
If you haven’t seen Part I, check it out here.
Meet Britt G, a lesbian mulatto Canadian.
Growing up confused, I often asked my Caucasian parents why my skin was different. My African-American father wasn’t around to answer. I was excited to finally meet others like me when Nigerians moved in down the street, but they moved out within months.
As a kid, I planned to move to the U.S. to not only reconnect with my culture but also transition into a man. Why? So I could be with a woman! I was a lesbian but had no plan in living with this label, out of fear. I saw it as the worst thing you could be. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to meet so many inspiring friends through Vancouver’s queer scene, some of whom are black. They have become family. They have shown me there is a place in this country for people like us.
I’m no longer confused. Canada has been my home all along.
Meet Sophie, a queer Anishinaabe-kwe from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation in Ontario.
As an Indigenous woman, Canada 150 doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m Anishinaabe, and my people have been living along the Great Lakes for thousands of years. Settlers came into my territory over four hundred years ago. As a queer, Indigenous woman, Canada 150 makes me angry. As my other queer Indigenous friends say, this is the second time that gay rights have been legal in these lands.
Canada 150 means settlers took my homeland and made it their own. Canada 150 means generations of my ancestors and Elders were taken and fed poison and denied their history and spirit. Canada 150 means I don’t know my queer ancestors. Canada 150 makes me afraid to be out in my community. Canada 150 means my queer teachings can only be found now in the Jesuits’ scrawled records and ethnography monographs. Canada 150 means loss. Canada 150 means silence.
So forget Canada 150. I want to find our queer ancestors and honour our queer Elders. I want our communities to be safe. I want to remember, dream, share, dance, live our queer teachings. I celebrate being Indigenous. I celebrate being Anishinaabe, I celebrate my ancient nationhood. Anishinaabek Gaagiigewin.
Meet Grace, a queer Chinese-Canadian.
My family moved to Vancouver from Hong Kong when I was 4, and growing up, I was grateful that they did. We had a house here, school was way more chill, and when I came out and started dating women, there was an amazing queer scene that I could easily access.
But as I grew older, I also realized that the Canada Day that I loved celebrating was the same July 1 on which Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act and literally put a price on my ancestors’ heads. We were good enough to build the railroad for this country, but not enough to be accepted by it. As I wandered through Chinatown with my hipster coffee, I started to notice plaques detailing riots against the Chinese community. After the apologies from the government for the head tax and immigration ban, I see that the little supermarkets and Chinese bakeries that my family used to visit every weekend are now condos and vegan pizza shops.
As a lesbian, Canada’s great. As a person of colour, I think Canada has some work to do to live up to its reputation.
Meet Denise, a Black queer Canadian.
I’m not your typical queer black person. I grew up in Richmond in the early 90s before Gay-Straight Alliances and Black Lives Matter. Life as a young black teenager was full of questions and not too many answers. At that time Ellen DeGeneres had just come out as a lesbian. But I did not identify with this white woman who was into women. I couldn’t wrap my teenage brain around all of this information.
Fast forward to when I came out in 2000. My family didn’t know what to think of me as a gay person. I got condescending advice like “Why do you want to make life difficult for yourself?” But I soldiered on and life actually wasn’t very difficult. The Vancouver queer community embraced me.
As a black person, I feel very fortunate to call Canada home. I don’t have police following me around and harassing me for no reason; I feel incredibly blessed. Yet, I notice little things, like the bank security guard following me into the bank and keeping an eye on me. I watch the mess and the pain in the U.S., somewhat disconnected, as it hasn’t been my experience, but I feel immense sadness about it. I am very proud of my work as a DJ and a QueerFM radio host. Living in Canada has shown me how difficult life can be for LGBTQ2+ communities around the world, and as a black queer person, I am extremely thankful for having the freedom here to share my voice and to make change for good.