'We are fighting every day to be seen as equal,' says member of N.S. Rainbow Action Project
HALIFAX -- On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, members of Nova Scotia's LGBTQ2S+ community are both celebrating the progress that's been made but also highlighting the gaps in equality.
"May 17th is celebrated in over 130 countries around the world including 37 countries that same-sex acts are illegal," said Charlie Johnson with Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. "We are fighting every day to be seen as equal, to have equal rights and freedoms, to be who we are, who we love and without fear."
This May 17th, there were no rallies held locally to mark the day. But politicians, activists and allies took to social media to raise awareness.
Steve Macleod and Jacob Rafuse recently launched a TV cooking show Apocalyptic Kitchen, where Drag Queen Deva Station a.k.a. Steve Macleod teaches the next generation how cook and accomplish other do it yourself projects. Taking a break from gardening, the couple reflected on how much change they've witnessed in their lifetime—such as same-sex marriage, which wasn't legal across Canada until 2005.
"We've seen massive progress in terms of being allowed to marry, being allowed to adopt children and for trans people their rights are coming along but they're no where near the speed that they need to be," Rafuse said.
Chris Cochrane is a Trans activist and also the vice-chair of Halifax Pride. She points out that just because the LGBTQ2S+ community is more visible now — doesn't mean they are more accepted.
"We are very much still under the foot of so many people, and we're still very not accepted," Cochrane said. "It's weird how people say it's a phobia. The only thing they're afraid of is they're afraid of acceptance and they're afraid of they're afraid of finding something out about themselves."
Many believe more education is needed, especially in schools and workplaces.
"I'm still fighting all of these inner demons that been laid on me through years of not understanding things about gender and then discovering it myself — why wasn't I educated about that? Why didn't someone tell me it's okay to be not just male or female?" Johnson said.
Carmel Farahbakhsh is the Executive Director of The Youth Project, which supports LGBTQ2S+ youth in Nova Scotia aged 25 and under.
"It is so deeply important for youth to have access to people who have similar experiences as them so they don't feel isolated in their experience," they said.
Farahbakhsh said there's a huge need for resources and services to support youth experiencing discrimination on the basis of their gender and gender identity.
"There needs to be better healthcare systems to understand that gender non-conforming two-spirit and trans youth should not be going through re-traumatizing processes of proving their trans-ness. They should have access to affirming and comprehensive care-based supports," they said.