Statement from the Chair: Remembering Stonewall, Honoring Pride
The June 28, 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City are widely acknowledged as a pivotal event in the pursuit of equality in the 2SLGBTQ+ community. As the community commemorates the anniversary of this event during Pride Month, it is important that each of us reflect on the decades of change that followed and how the legacy of violence and bigotry linger.
While our society has come a long way in our treatment of members of the two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community, homophobic and transphobic, discrimination, and violence continue to threaten the rights, safety, and freedom of many who struggle to find safety and fairness in our communities.
The events at Stonewall in 1969 were triggered by a police raid on the popular gay bar, the subsequent violence a response to decades of living under laws criminalizing homosexuality. In the years following the first Pride parades were organized and numerous gay rights organizations were founded. This legacy of activism and celebration remain the foundation for Pride celebrations worldwide today.
The decriminalization of homosexuality, the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness, the legalization of gay marriage and protection under human rights law, are all monumental achievements, but harassment, discrimination and hatred based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression continue to harm many.
Homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and marginalization are felt disproportionately in other equity seeking communities, among Indigenous peoples, people of colour and people with disabilities. This intersection of identities highlights the necessity to continue to work together to remove barriers and support the rights of all members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities.
While Pride celebrations look different recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many opportunities to become educated on the history of advocacy in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, to get involved in community action to address discrimination, and protect the rights of others through allyship.
Cheryl Knockwood is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a lawyer and currently works for the Membertou First Nation as its governance coordinator. She has taught Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Cape Breton University.