OFL Statement on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, 2015 | The Ontario Federation of Labour

OFL Statement on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, 2015

May 17, 2015

Standing Up and Speaking Out as Proud Allies:

OFL Statement on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, 2015

Around the world, May 17 is recognized as a day of action, awareness and affirmation of the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified and Queer-identified (LGBTQ) people. On this day, the labour movement joins the LGBTQ community and allies in fighting for equality and celebrating the contributions made by LGBTQ people to society and their families. The date of May 17th was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

In almost 80 countries around the world, loving someone of the same sex is still considered illegal, at times involving lifetime imprisonment and, in nine countries, it is even punishable by death. This horrifying reality is the catalyst behind our ongoing work with Sexual Minorities Uganda, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the international community. The OFL joins this movement to actively support countries around the world in providing a safe haven for LGBTQ Ugandans escaping persecution.

The Montreal-based, Fondation Émergence, has chosen a theme and visuals for its 2015 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia campaign which highlight the crucial role allies play in the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality. This year, the awareness campaign recognizes the important contribution made by allies in the lives of all LGBTQ individuals. We all know a relative, a co-worker or a friend who contributed, in one way or another, to LGBTQ self-development.

“The labour movement is a proud ally for LGBTQ workers, their families and their community. We have proudly mobilized for legislation affording LGBTQ rights at the provincial and national level,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “Legislation provides powerful tools in combating homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination but we cannot simply challenge hate in the courtrooms of the nation – we must challenge it in our homes, workplaces and communities.”

The devastating effect of homophobia and transphobia continues to exact a heavy toll on a community whose youth face a suicide rate that is 14 times greater than their heterosexual peers. A survey of high school students published by the EGALE Human Rights Trust in 2009 showed that three-quarters of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in at least one place at school, such as change rooms, washrooms, and hallways. Transgender and transsexual students are among the most marginalized and are especially likely to see at least one of these places as unsafe (87 percent). These statistics provide a frightening backstory to the alarming rates of depression and suicide within the LGBTQ community.

However, these prejudices do not stop at graduation and often follow LGBTQ workers throughout their lives. Recent studies indicate that a high percentage of LGBTQ workers opt to stay “in the closet” and do not “come out” to their colleagues or employer for fear of being ostracized, demoted or fired. While the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act explicitly prohibit harassment and discrimination, incidents too often go unreported, unacknowledged and unenforced.

“Despite important victories and advancements made in recent years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer members of our communities still face homophobia and transphobia in their daily lives,” said OFL Executive Vice-President Irwin Nanda. “LGBTQ people and their families experience harassment, intimidation and even violence on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. This oppression is particularly dangerous for young people and is compounded by other forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, ableism and classism.”

“The Ontario Federation of Labour stands with pride in solidarity with the LGBTQ community’s struggle against discrimination and creation of full equality,” said OFL Solidarity and Pride Vice-President Stephen Seaborn. “This Federation is proud of its contribution to the legislative and social progress on LGBTQ issues that has been made over the past four decades.”

Click here to download a printable copy of this statement.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

For further information:

Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416-707-0349 (cell) or jduff@ofl-org.flywheelsites.com *ENG/FRENCH*