THE RIGHT TO BE ME
General awareness of same-sex relationships became more prominent during the mid-century in Canada thanks in large part to the rise of various subcultures, although LGBTQ+ issues were still mostly absent from mainstream media. As homosexuality became established as an identity rather than an act, the government began pushing anti-homosexual campaigns, with a majority of it targeting those in the military and civil services. Local police also began arresting men they perceived to be gay, often basing their assumptions on arbitrary self-imposed definitions of the proper way of presenting gender.
Since then, many advances have been made by those in the LGBTQ2+ community in the fight towards equal treatment, a fight that still continues today. The development of intersectionality and the newfound awareness of preferred pronouns all contribute to the advocacy of proper recognition and self-identity we have today.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, coined the term Intersectionality. It is a way of understanding how different parts of a person’s identity overlap and interact to create various forms of discrimination and privilege. Intersectionality can be broadened to countless different factors of identity interacting with one another, such as wealth and economic status, physical or mental ability, national origin, religion, education background, age, sexual orientation, language, and family background. These are just some of the different ‘roads’ that intersect with one another.
The factors that contribute to the intersectionality of a person can change throughout their lifetime. As people go through life, a variety of opportunities or events can affect how they see themselves in society.
People’s gender and sexual identity can change with time, affecting how others may discriminate against them. The examples of how identity, discrimination, and privilege shift with time are endless. Different ‘roads’ may also offer opportunities to people.
ABELISM the false assumption of a universal superior standard for cognitive or physical difference.
AGEIM discrimination based upon age, may apply to any time of life, but usually biased toward youth.
COLONIALISM imposition of power by one group over another.
GENDER FLUID not identifying with fixed masculine or feminine identity.
MYTHICAL NORM false assumption of a white, male standard.
STATUS QUO Latin term describing established social and institutional conditions.
WHITEWASHING metaphor for covering up injustice – especially racial injustice – through mis-information.
The important part of understanding intersectionality is realizing the fallacy of the ‘normal person,’ often thought of as a heterosexual, cisgendered, neurotypical, fully abled, middle class, white man. This should no longer be thought of as the norm. Everyone is unique in their own way and should not be compared to an arbitrary baseline.
INTERSECTION OF RACISM AND SEXUALITY
The 1915 trial against the Vancouver mill-workers Dalip Singh and Naina Singh is an exemplary of how homophobia and racism were intertwined in early twentieth-century Canada. The accusations were made shortly after the Komagata Maru (1914) was not allowed to disembark its passengers.
The documentary film Rex vs Singh shows how detectives Joseph Ricci and Donald Sinclair arrested Naina Singh and Dalip Singh on the basis of “attempted buggery” three months after Bela Singh was cleared of murder charges. Although the exact relationship between Dalip, Naina, and Bela was unknown, immigration policies were largely informed by the colonial relations between Punjabi workers and Canada (British Empire). As British subjects, the Sikh workers who were already residing in Canada could not be discriminated against through racist laws. Thus, it might be through the “Gross Indecency” law, that the municipal government tried to criminalize the Sikh men.
Rex vs Singh. Directed by Richard Fung, Ali Kazimi, and John Greyson, commissioned by the Queer History Project of Out on Screen, Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
GENDER-SPECIFIC & GENDER-NEUTRAL PRONOUNS
What are pronouns:
Pronouns in the simplest definition are words that stand in for nouns. Pronouns may be used so that a noun doesn’t have to be referred to by its name every single time that it is mentioned. For example, “My friend Kyle plays hockey, he is very good,” is a lot easier to say and read than “My friend Kyle plays hockey, Kyle is very good.”
Pronouns are gendered. He/Him and She/Her. This is the binary view, an outdated way of thinking that defines only two different identities. This thinking is harmful to those who do not indentify with the pronouns they were assigned with at birth. It requires people to be either male or female. This structure forces everyone to adhere to a fixed identity. However, in many languages and cultures, gendered pronouns or the gender binary do not exist. Due to colonialism, many pre-colonial understandings of identity have been erased or altered.
Changing pronouns is one way to break out and allow non-conforming behaviours. However, much needs to be done to form a more tolerant and accommodating society, which allows each identity to blossom.
Someone may want to be referred to with They/Them pronouns, taking the gendered aspect out of the equation. Others may want a mix of pronouns, for example: She/They.
Pronouns, like so much else of someone’s identity can change with time. People can change their pronouns at any age. A person’s pronouns may change multiple times throughout their life. Someone who identifies as gender fluid may have their pronouns shift throughout the day, or the week. Everyone is different in this regard.
Sadly, some people may choose to live with pronouns that they themselves are uncomfortable with. People may decide to hide their identity for a variety of reasions. They might feel uncomfortable or unsafe with telling the people around them their pronouns, this might especially be the case in places that are less open to LGBTQ+ ideas. Other people may fear that they will lose their job, or be unable to achieve certain gails if they identify with a specific set of pronouns.
biological sex The division of a species based on reproductive function. In humans, sex is divided into male and female.
assigned sex The classification of a newborn’s sex as either male or female based on the appearance of their external genitalia.
intersex A variation in sex characteristics which is not strictly male or female. Intersex newborns are often forced into treatments to conform to one or the other.
nonbinary Gender identities and expressions which do not fit typical cultural associations with only the male and female sex.
gender neutral Characteristics and social roles with no associations with what is considered masculine or feminine.
demigender Experiencing only a partial sense of a gender, or only partially relating to the concept of gender more broadly.
gender fluid The experience of a variable gender identity, experiencing different gender identities at different times.
What you can do
* Ask if you are unsure of someone’s pronouns. Be attentive to how others refer to this person. If you are still unsure, privately and politely ask the person what pronouns they use.
* Start meetings with everyone introducing themselves and their pronouns.
* Stating your own pronouns (in bio or emails, etc.) indicates that you are open and wiling to respect other people’s identities.