The day was initiated in a Nova Scotia high school in 2007, when two straight students saw a gay student being threatened and taunted for wearing a pink shirt to school. The students intervened, but wanted to do something more to prevent future acts of homophobic bullying. They decided to purchase pink shirts, and a few days later got everyone at school to show up wearing pink, in an act of solidarity. The result was powerful – an entire school stamped out homophobic and transphobic bullying.
The story quickly caught on and now many schools and workplaces throughout the world host annual pink shirt days.
Positive actions like this help bust stereotypes and shift societal attitudes about sexual orientation and gender identity. However, there is still a long way to go to eliminate hate and discrimination ~ both inside and outside of Canada’s borders. For instance there are still places in the world where being openly gay or lesbian could cost you your life. According to recently published data by an international LGBTTI rights organization, same sex acts are criminalized in over 80 different countries, five of which use the death penalty.
The thought of being killed or jailed simply because of who you date, or who you love, is hard to comprehend, but it’s the harsh reality facing many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people throughout the world.
Even within Canada where sexual orientation and gender identity are considered human rights, bullying and harassment issues remain prevalent. A recent survey of homophobia and transphobia in Canadian schools, led by LGBTTI advocacy association EGALE Canada, revealed that sixty-four percent of LGBTTI students reported feeling unsafe at school and fifty-eight percent of straight students reported feeling upset by homophobic comments. In fact over two-thirds of students are hearing homophobic expressions like “that’s so gay” on a daily basis. With respect to gender identity, an overwhelming seventy-four percent of trans youth have been verbally harassed about their gender expression.
Homophobic and transphobic bullying is an attack on human rights and it hurts everyone from the targets to the witnesses to society at large.
Moreover, it is not just a schoolyard issue – it pervades our workplaces and communities. In fact, many of our LGBTTI members still face verbal and physical harassment at work, preventing them from fully participating in our union. The bullying is often intensified for people who face multiple discriminations, such as LGBTTI people of colour, who are also subjected to racism.
Despite these injustices, positive initiatives are helping to combat homophobic and transphobic bullying:
CUPE’s ongoing campaign “Speak Out! Stop Bullying” is inspiring action and raising awareness about the high rates of bullying experienced by members of the LGBTTI community. Many copies of the new brochure along with the popular pink frisbees and bandanas have been distributed at Pride Parades, Division Conventions, conferences and workshops across the country. This material can be order through CUPE’s Equality Branch.
An entire high school in Burnaby, British Columbia recently held an anti-homophobia conference. Educators and students engaged in meaningful conversations about homophic and transphobic bullying.
In May of this year, Egale Canada in partnership with the Toronto District School Board will host the very first National Gay/Straight Alliance Summit, bringing together hundreds of LGBTTI and allied youth and educators from across the country.
CUPE continues to support EGALE’s “Safe Schools” campaign which is working to create safer and more inclusive policies to combat homophobia and transphobia in schools
Egale produced a documentary “Courage in the Face of Hate”, which draws attention to the human impact of hate crimes, violence and bullying against LGBTTI Canadians. Learn more about the video: egale.ca/.
The action taken by the students in Nova Scotia reinforces the supportive role that allies can play in combating discrimination.
Here are some ways you and your local can offer support to LGBTTI members and combat bullying:
Learn more about the Day of Pink, find out about different events going on, and get inspiration for actions at dayofpink.org and egale.ca.
Talk to your local about sponsoring an anti-bullying event at a school in your community.
Find out what community partners are doing for Day of Pink and connect your local to different events.
Talk to your education representative about requesting the six hour or nine hour “Combating Workplace Bullying” workshop, Pride in CUPE workshop, or if you are a steward, look into taking the Steward Learning Series module “Challenging Homophobia in the workplace”.
Encourage your local to develop an anti-bullying/anti-harassment workplace campaign.
Please join us in celebrating this important date and let us know about any activities that you or your local are participating in by emailing email@example.com.
In solidarity and pride
Paul Moist ~ National President ~ Charles Fleury ~ National Secretary-Treasurer
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