Sunday, May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Today we rededicate ourselves to the struggle for LGBTQ2S+ rights in Canada and around the world.  We also reflect on all that we have accomplished and acknowledge the homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia that persists in the lives of LGBTQ2S+ people.

Since 2005, May 17 has been dedicated to the fight against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, marking the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

CUPE and the broader labour movement have historically been at the forefront in fight for LGBTQ2S+ rights. Over the past decades, CUPE members sought the inclusion of sexual orientation in employer anti-discrimination policies, lobbied for marriage equality, campaigned for transition support for transgender members, and fought to uphold the rights to gender identity and expression in our workplaces and our communities.

Remembering these milestones give us hope in the face of the tremendous challenges that lie ahead. Despite progress, homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia remain systemically ingrained in Canadian government and society. In fact, rather than decreasing, Statistics Canada has reported an increase in violent hate crimes targeting LGBTQ2S+ communities.

This hatred is enabled and fuelled in Ontario by the Ford Conservatives’ attempts to return to a time when LGBTQ2S+ Ontarians were second class citizens. Among Ford’s first acts in office was the cancellation of the sex education component of the revised 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum, reverting to a 1998 version that did not address gender identity or sexual orientation. Only a massive outpouring of community outrage, led by the students of Ontario, made the Ford Conservatives promise to restore most of the components of the curriculum addressing LGBTQ2S+ issues.

The Federal Conservatives share in the shame of their provincial counterparts, with leadership candidate Peter Mackay, interim leader Andrew Scheer, and countless other Conservative MPs supporting transphobic ‘bathroom bills’ that seek to paint trans people as dangerous predators. Conservatives’ continued reliance on the support of fringe right-wing extremists opposed to LGBTQ2S+ recognition and rights sits them squarely among far-right anti-LGBTQ2S+ leaders around the world leading a global resurgence in Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.

Although nearly 30 countries recognize same-sex marriage, by contrast, more than 70 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. This includes 6 countries that effectively impose the death penalty on consensual same-sex sexual acts. In 6 other countries, the death penalty is a possible punishment. People around the world regularly experience harassment, discrimination, and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

This tide of hate is compounded by the disparate impact of COVID-19 on equity seeking groups, including LGBTQ2S+ communities, due to ongoing health disparities and existing barriers to healthcare access. Squeezed by venomous persecution on the one hand and looming health risks on the other, the  importance of social connection—even in a time of social distancing—has never been more important.

Under the leadership of the Pink Triangle Committee, our union and our movement will be there, supporting the activist networks we will need not only to survive this crisis but, one day, to triumph over hatred once and for all. On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we call on all of you to recommit to taking action within your workplaces and within your community to end discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.