Celebrating 30 years of Pride in Calgary and moving towards more inclusive communities

Pride is a celebration that’s hard to rival. Across the world, Pride has grown into large-scale events of diversity that welcome everyone to take part. This year, Calgary Pride is celebrating their 30th anniversary and at United Way of Calgary Area, we’re celebrating with the LGBTQI2S community too!

Thankfully, we’ve made major strides in recent years towards equality and supporting healthy, vibrant communities that are inclusive and value diversity. However, in spite of the legal victories (LGBTQI2S rights are fully protected in Canada), there is much more to be done to bring about full social equality. The LGBTQI2S community continues to be a vulnerable group, and faces significant discrimination. This leads to barriers accessing healthcare and mental health services and contributes to higher rates of homelessness, poverty, mental health problems, and social isolation. Research from the Canadian Mental Health Association shows that LGBTQI2S youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual peers.Female showing rainbow tattoo with her fist clenched high up

A recent research study by Egale Canada also shows that Canada’s LGBTQI2S community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. A majority (53 per cent) of LGBTQI2S households have been affected by layoffs and reduced hours and are less confident in their current financial situation.

Like anyone else, members of the LGBTQS2 community are major contributors to the vibrancy and the prosperity of our country and communities, but continue to experience stigma and discrimination that shapes their lives in subtle and significant ways. As an example, LGBTQI2S youth are three times as likely to contemplate suicide, and nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide. Studies also show how there’s a correlation to economic prosperity and being inclusive to the LGBTQI2S community.

During this time of uncertainty, supporting LGBTQI2S (and other marginalized communities) is more than just the right thing to do, being an ally is more important than ever. At a speech given in 2015, Justin Trudeau shared “Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded—culturally, politically, economically—because of our diversity, not in spite of it.”

Being an Ally is an active term is an ongoing process while at the same time being willing to learn about the unintentional or intentional ways we contribute to injustice.

Here are seven actions you can take to show your support for your LGBTQI2S friends, coworkers and community to be a good ally.

Get to know the diversity within the community itself

You might ask, “what’s with all the letters?” LGBTQI2S is an abbreviation that stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, and Two-Spirit. LGBTQ2+ or LGBTQ are also commonly used. The letters were an evolution toward inclusion and to capture the terms used to describe the gender and sexuality spectrums. Currently, the full abbreviation is LGBTTTQQIAA, but this list is ever evolving. Don’t worry about memorizing the list—the most important thing is to be respectful and use the terms that people prefer.

Understand the true meaning of Pride

Pride is a lot of fun and has evolved to become a huge celebration. However, Pride is also tied to a long history of struggle. It started as a protest and continues to commemorate the Stonewall riots after police raided the Stonewall Inn bar in New York on June 28, 1969. (Calgary’s first Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival was held in June 1988.) For the LGBTQI2S community, Pride is a time to show resiliency, express creativity, celebrate diversity, and experience what life would like look like without discrimination.

Respect people’s pronouns

Using correct pronouns is a fundamental step in being an ally—it’s an important way of affirming someone’s identity, and helps to create safer and more inclusive spaces. We can’t always know what someone’s gender pronouns are by looking at them. It can take time to get someone’s pronouns right, so don’t be intimidated. Common pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs.

Ask people what their pronouns are, and if you have questions, you can politely ask the person to give examples of how to use them. For example, a way to do this in workplace, is at the start of meetings, go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and their pronouns (if they feel comfortable). You can also add pronouns to your email signature and business cards.

Step up and be visible for LGBTQI2S persons or causes

Being a good ally can range from wearing a button of support, joining Pride activities, participating in the Pride parade, supporting LGBTQI2S businesses or causes that raise money for LGBTQI2S causes.

At work it could be raising inclusion topics at staff meetings, or starting (and joining) employee resource groups. If allies participate in conversations and activities around the office, it creates a much more inclusive culture and says we value diversity.

For individuals from marginalized groups it’s difficult to constantly be the one that steps up. These identities also often intersect with other identities like race, age, immigration status and others. The heart of being a good ally is standing up for one another and helping to remove barriers, raising awareness and getting others involved.

Be empathetic, accountable and do some research

A tried-and-true way to support your LGBTQI2S friends and colleagues is by being your authentic self, even if that authentic self isn’t perfect. Topics can be sensitive, but it’s important to remember that we’re all on a learning journey and mistakes are almost inevitable. The most important thing is to be respectful and show that you care. If you realize, for instance, that you made a mistake and referred to someone by the wrong pronoun, say something like, “Sorry, I meant (insert right pronoun.)” Be sincere with your apology, then move on. There are many free resources and supportive blogs that will help you grow your knowledge. A simple Google search can often make a big difference or check out Pride Calgary’s Diversity and Education videos.

Listen and amplify

Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference when you’re in the minority, and you should be proud of the fact that someone sees you as their trusted ally.

However, just because someone has “come out” to you it doesn’t mean they have revealed their LGBTQI2S status to everyone, or that they are ready to. In the workplace, people can be scared to lose their job or opportunity for advancement.

Provide day-to-day encouragement of your LGBTQI2S coworkers by calling attention to their accomplishments and amplifying their voices, but also by helping defend them if inappropriate situations arise.

Support non-profit organizations that support LGBTQI2S causes by giving or volunteering

Doing good makes our community stronger and it’s good for your mind, body, and soul! The human rights of all persons are universal and indivisible. In Canada, we are protected and believe that everyone should enjoy the same fundamental human rights, regardless of their sexual orientation and their gender identity and expression.

At United Way, we exist to improve local lives and are united in building more equitable and inclusive communities for all. Much of our work is centered on supporting agencies and people at the intersections of the issues. We recognize the reality that as long as people have faced multiple threats to their dignity and humanity, they must be at the center of not only the organizing, but also the resourcing of the work. Only then will we move towards realizing our potential as a society

Donations of time and money are vital to keeping this work alive. By showing support with more than just words, you confirm that you are interested and invested in the discussion around LGBTQI2S rights (and the rights of marginalized groups), and willing to invest your efforts to help create equitable and just communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
United Way of Calgary and Area is a proud sponsor of Pride Calgary and is deeply committed to our core values of diversity and inclusion. We believe strong communities are built on understanding, acceptance and equality for all.