In the News: ProudPolitics Spotlight Program: Political And Social Visibility for the LGBT Community

The Huffington Post - Posted: 09/02/2014 1:11 pm EDT Updated: 09/02/2014 1:59 pm EDT
By  - Writer and Social Critic; Student, McMaster University

Political and social visibility is paramount to the increasingly vibrant and profound advancements concerning LGBT rights, both in Canada and on a global scale. Visibility, within this context, is giving public, positive, and critical representation to the LGBT community in Canada. This aforesaid political and social visibility bridges the existing empathy gaps that currently exist within society, in relation to the LGBT community, both in Canada and on a global scale.

When LGBT persons are given critical representation and visibility in society, there is a subsequent and inevitable humanization that comes from the recognition that at its core, the issues that the LGBT community faces is an important faction of the continuum of struggles experienced by all human beings. The dissonance and negative distance that arises from the indiscriminate and incomplete stereotypical representation of the LGBT community is reduced, because persons are able to immediately dismiss these categorizations of individuals within the LGBT community as untrue, by virtue of the political and social visibility that they are, or ought to be, afforded within society.

This political and social visibility is the goal that the ProudPolitics organization as a whole, and its Spotlight Program, is striving to achieve. ProudPolitics is a non-partisan organization, based in Canada that is working to get more LGBT politicians into office. The Spotlight program within the organization, of which I am honoured to be a co-manager and creative director, along side my colleague and friend Warren Brown, is one of the initiatives that seeks to achieve the overarching aim of the organization. The Spotlight Program is an initiative that is currently involved with interviewing past and present LGBT politicians in Canada, both on a federal, a provincial, and a municipal level, and to date, we have interviewed five politicians of all political stripes. The aims of the interviews are to document an important part of the history of the LGBT community in Canada, to highlight the triumphs and tribulations of the journeys of these LGBT politicians in Canada, and to provide inspirations, and foster role models for LGBT youths, disadvantaged communities, minorities, and any LGBT persons out there aspiring for political office.

y doing these interviews, and subsequently articulating the deserving and inspiring stories of the politicians that we interview, the Spotlight Program creates political and social visibility, as best we can. The interviews encapsulate the intricate and vulnerable realities that surrounds discovering one's identity, the whispers of the hidden and daunting truths about coming to terms with one's identity, the tales of familial and communal estrangement, the stories of banishment to the hollowness of homelessness, the social struggles that one faces when they confront society openly with their identity, the fight that one embodies when they seek to redefine their social struggles as part of the human struggle, and the courage it takes to impose their struggles on the world, so we can all share in their ordeals and actively seek to address and change the afflictions that the LGBT community faces, on a local, national, and global scale.

As a country, Canada has come very far in terms of ensuring that LGBT persons are not denied their legal, constitutional, and human rights. However, Canada still has a very long way to go with respect to LGBT issues, and as such, it does not have the luxury of political and legislative apathy or social and communal complacency. One of the biggest ways in which the Canadian society can continue to ensure that LGBT issues are addressed and LGBT persons are given critical representation is through political empowerment. Thus, it is not enough for legislatures- who might, understandably, be less adept at navigating the issues confronting the LGBT community, as opposed to LGBT persons themselves- to author laws that directly and indirectly affect the community, rather LGBT persons have to be allowed to address the issues directly, themselves.

Thus, political empowerment for the LGBT community can be achieved through political representation of LGBT persons within the Canadian government. As such, by electing highly competent and willing LGBT persons into leadership in Canada, the LGBT community as a whole, is empowered to internally reconstruct the structures that disfavor their community. The ProudPolitics spotlight program seeks to highlight the political representation that exists or has existed in the Canadian government, how far that representation can go in reforming said governmental structures, and subsequently empowering LGBT people to courageously aspire for political office in Canada.

The question becomes, how far can the space that the ProudPolitics Spotlight Program seeks to establish go in creating the social and political visibility that it aspires towards. I think that part of the answer lies in the potential of the stories of these politicians to profoundly impart the lives and views of its audience. As noted before, their stories create a bridge to our common humanity and it unifies the struggles that underlie our core, and so, one can easily see that the Spotlight program has a lot of potential. However, the other part of the answer lies in the receptiveness of the audience, to which their stories ultimately reach. We must be willing to, as a society, not just read their stories but also seek to understand their stories and their struggles, and see it as a part of our stories and our struggles. Until we are able to openly accept the commonality of our realities and seam the threads of our stories into an ever-stretching continuum of the beauty and variety of human life, the power and profoundness of their struggles would cease to entrap us in an empathetic way.

Thus, ProudPolitics and its Spotlight Program would do its part in creating the social and political visibility that it aspires towards. But ultimately, the effectiveness of its aim lies in the recognition that the visibility of the LGBT community, both in Canada and on a global scale, is inextricably tied to our open and critical receptiveness of the community, our own political, social, and communal visibility, and our common humanity.

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ProudPolitics August 2021 Panel Webinars

ProudPolitics is excited to announce that we will be holding a series of webinars for the month of August! There will be three webinars in this series, each webinar are as follows:

  • Running Out: Conversations About Being A 2SLGBTQ+ candidate - Topics of discussion will include identity politics, campaign challenges, and how the political landscape has changed for 2SLGBTQ+ candidates.
  • Student Groups and 2SLGBTQ+ Advocacy - Topics of discussion will centre around how post-secondary institutions have addressed 2SLGBTQ+ concerns. Hear from 2SLGBTQ+ student organizations on how their educational institutions impact their advocacy.
  • Representation in Politics - We will discuss the importance and impacts of 2SLGBTQ+ representation in Canadian politics, whether there have been improvements, and identifying things that Canadian parliament can do better.

Please RSVP for all three webinars here, and spread the word! By amplifying the stories and experiences of 2SLGBTQ candidates, we can identify ways to achieve greater representation for our communities in office.

ProudPolitics is hiring | for Summer 2021!

Attention university students, ProudPolitics is hiring for Summer 2021!

Are you looking for meaningful and exciting projects to take on in the summer?  ProudPolitics is looking for three talented summer interns to join our team.

For more details, check-out the opportunities in our Careers section.

By CURTIS ATKINS, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director, ProudPolitics

The posting of a 14-year-old video of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer declaring that same-
sex unions were unequal to the “natural” marriages of heterosexual couples by Liberal MP Ralph
Goodale was, of course, a well-timed political move. With a federal election now just a couple of
months away, it’s no surprise that politicians are digging up their opponents’ dirty laundry and
hanging it out for voters to see. Whatever the Liberals’ political motivations may be, though, the
fact remains that Scheer has done little to prove his views have evolved from the anti-LGBTQ
sentiments he expressed in the House of Commons in 2005.

The content of what was said in the video is itself no great revelation. It’s a matter of public
record that Scheer, like most members of Stephen Harper’s Conservative caucus, voted against
the Civil Marriage Act when it was proposed by the Paul Martin government. The queer
constituency group in Scheer’s own party, LGBTory, was cool to him when he was running for
Conservative leader for this very reason, among others.

In the clip circulated by Goodale, Scheer says that marriage equality can never be seen as a right
under the Charter and that the procreation and raising of children is the “essence” and “primary
focus” of marriage. If two women or two men cannot produce children on their own, then their
unions are “contradictory” to nature and therefore do not qualify as a marriage. In his rather
bizarre analogy, a dog’s tail cannot be seen as a fifth leg just because someone wants to call it

Scheer went even further, though, characterizing marriage equality as a threat to religious liberty. In a forerunner of the bigoted baker wedding cake controversies of recent years, Scheer told the supposedly sad tale of a Knights of Columbus group in British Columbia that was sued after refusing to rent out an events hall for a same-sex wedding reception. In the Conservative MP’s mind, requiring people to treat others with dignity and equality amounted to persecution. Freedom of religion apparently must mean freedom to discriminate.

The things Scheer said were standard fare for social conservatives at the time in Canada; they still are among Christian fundamentalists south of our border. What made his video so jarring to our ears this week is the fact that such talk has (mostly) passed from the realm of acceptable public debate in this country.

The official response from the Conservative Party’s campaign communications team to the video’s resurfacing was to repeat the by now worn-out line that their leader would defend the law as prime minister and has no desire to re-open the debate around marriage equality. Essentially, that’s like saying: We lost that fight and don’t want to have it again. Scheer’s quiet backing for dropping the “one man, one woman” marriage plank from the Conservative platform in 2016 amounted to the same. 

By no means does simply avoiding the issue signal that Scheer’s views have changed in any significant way over the last decade and a half. His opposition to extending civil rights and criminal code protections to transgender Canadians—Bill C16—as recently as 2016 suggests quite the opposite. His personal boycott of pride parades only seems to further confirm a continuing commitment to the belief that, even if the law says so, LGBTQ Canadians are not really equal to other Canadians.

Every individual is entitled to their personal beliefs, but when an individual seeks to hold the highest elected office in the country, their beliefs have policy ramifications—they take on public importance. 

Of course, it is true that people and parties change. The viewpoints and positions taken in the past don’t necessarily mean they’re still adhered to in the present. But another part of the Conservative response to the release of this old video gives LGBTQ Canadians ample reason to question whether they would be viewed as equal citizens under the government of a Prime Minister Andrew Scheer.

As the Conservative Party was at pains to point out this week, a lot of Liberal MPs also opposed marriage equality in the past, including Goodale, the circulator of the video. The fact that the opposition party rather foolishly answered the Liberals’ charge by attempting to redirect attention to the latter’s past mistakes, however, rather than apologizing for Scheer’s own bigotry just screamed to Canadians: We’re not the only homophobic ones!

This is not a debate about who was most eager to discriminate against and demonize LGBTQ Canadians in the past. This a question of who has evolved politically and come to appreciate all Canadians as equal and valuable parts of our country’s social fabric. 

Has Andrew Scheer evolved? Has the Conservative Party? 

Only the Tories and their leader can answer that question.

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