Dara Parker: Why asking for a Pride flag to be flown is not "whining"

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Two weeks ago I was interviewed by CBC, regarding Surrey’s refusal to fly the Pride flag at City Hall. As the camera was being set up the reporter asked me if we were at a point where complaining about having no flag was simply a “rich person’s privilege”. I believe he meant that the queer community was rich with rights and therefore, complaining about a flag essentially boiled down to “whining.”

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I politely, and vehemently, disagree.

While we have made incredible advancements in legal equalities across Canada, and I am deeply thankful to live in a country where I have access to my partner in a hospital, a workplace that cannot (legally) fire me, and the ability to marry my partner, we continue to live in a very heteronormative world. It is this world that fosters and often excuses homophobic and transphobic thoughts and behaviours.

Watching same-sex couples and genderqueer folks walk down Davie Street may be typical, but it certainly isn’t in the streets of Surrey. Or Nanaimo. Or Kamloops. Or for that matter, South Vancouver. In many communities, we remain largely invisible.

Our legal equalities have not yet translated to lived equalities. Which is why we must continue to work hard at empowering queer people, educating our communities, and raising awareness on the issues that matter most. Increasing visibility by waving the flag is just one of the thousands of ways that we create a safer, more inclusive world.

Because there is still work to be done.

Two weeks ago my partner and I were in Toronto to attend a friend’s wedding. While standing on a downtown corner on a sunny afternoon, waiting for a bus, Nata lightly kissed the back of my neck. In response, a middle-aged man walking behind us screamed “You fucking dykes!” We turned to witness this man pulsating with anger, his face swollen and red, his eyes locked in on us in a death grip, as he visibly seethed with rage.

We stood there, slightly in shock.

I had assumed a certain level of safety in Toronto, arguably the most diverse city in the world, and the host of World Pride in June. And while I didn’t feel physically threatened by his aggression, that might have been different if there weren’t other people around, if it was at night and therefore dark, and if we were in a more isolated part of the city.

No, I don’t think asking for a flag to be flown that represents diversity and inclusion is “whining”, not when there is so much work to be done. Which is why I am so proud that QMUNITY continues to fight every single day on behalf of our communities.

We can be the change we want to see in the world.

Happy Pride Month! 

Comments (9) Add New Comment
StraightUp
The GLBT community has asked that they be treated the same as anyone else in the community and rightly so, but then, they want to stand out? The average person straight or gay couldn't be upset either way, it's a few sh*t disturbers stirring up trouble.
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Alan Layton
The good thing about this incident is that council will most likely add a 4th flag pole so that many groups can fly their flag, especially when events are going on or there is a period of recognition. I understand that many other groups would like to have their flag flying as well.

What I didn't care for was labelling people as 'homophobic' because they didn't do exactly what was wanted, when wanted, regardless of protocol. I thought that was extremely insensitive and reckless. Being labelled as homophobic, racist or sexist is a now a powerful weapon used to harm people's job status, whether they are guilty of it or not and I thought it was a crude and classless act to use this tactic.
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Ben Sili
We're citizen of a Country, live in a Province and in a Town, regardless of our sexual orientation or whatever else personal particularities. This obsession by the LGBTQaBx2zz24 and growing... to be like everyone else except that they should be recognized as such is getting tiring. Live your life and for one old fart in a TO street, how many did not say a thing?
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nikki
I dint think that a male flag, a female flag , or a gay flag should be flown at a public building. its got nothing to do with sex of any kind. its to do with the running of the city. period
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TP
This is only about flying the Pride flag during Pride week. If the city is having a huge event and celebration of some kind then a flag a city hall makes perfect sense. The argument isn't about having it flown permanently as far as I know. It's just a week and it means a lot. But I think the refusal to fly the flag says even more.
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suqit
Bigotry and ignorance is alive and well in Canada, based on the comments above. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes, then tell me how you feel. LGBT's have won legal rights in Canada after centuries of violence; yet Canada is an island in a world diseased with homophobic violence and murder (e.g. Russia, all those Muslim countries, most former British colonies, etc). Even our neighbour, the supposed bastion of human rights, is still struggling to implement equality laws for LGBTs. Despite Canada's laws, LGBTs in Canada, especially outside of downtown cores (and even there!), still face unrelenting bullying, abuse, and violence. A man in Pictou, NS was assaulted last year in a homophobic hate-crime, had his spine severed, and is now paralyzed for life. Straight insecure thugs still need their targets. The bad attitude of people like those commenting above is what keeps homophobia alive - it's disgusting. Flying a flag indicates at least that this is a safer place for LGBTs; that Surrey chose not to is indicative of entrenched bigotry. I blame this on the hatred spread by Christian evangelicals, intolerance brought by immigrants from countries behind the times, and unethical leaders like Watts who, to make a buck, invite war-criminals to their cities.
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blah
I used to love the rainbow. Now it's a symbol of oppression by people who think it's their right to harass people who don't think it necessary to shove their sexuality in everybody's face. The LGBT community want to be treated like everybody else, except when they want special treatment.
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Alan Layton
I can't speak for any of the other commentors but my issue was the use of the term 'homophobic' to attack someone when it wasn't warranted. I could care less if they fly the flag but I don't believe that being refused at that time is a sign of homophobia. I thought it was a crude and pointless act trying to hurt someone's career like that and the guy I saw in the interview making the accusation was a self-righteous bigot. It was childish and there was no excuse for it.
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Eman Ruoy
Of course it's not typical to see same-sex or genderqueer folks in Nanaimo, Kamloops or Surrey -- gay people make up about 2% or 3% of the general population, so they're not typical ANYWHERE. Even on Davie Street -- I live in the area and it's still rare to see gays and lesbians holding hands on that street, because straights still make up the majority of people on Davie on any given day.

I'm tired of the rainbow flag being used as a marketing tool -- by businesses and politicians alike. We should judge businesses and governments by their actions. Flying a rainbow flag is easy, and its symbolism has been watered down by the number of people flying them to increase sales or get a few more votes. I can think of more than one politician that has all the right symbols on their constituency offices, but remain invisible once they're re-elected.

I think it's sad when we've reached a point when not flying a rainbow flag is interpreted as homophobia. If politicians feel like they must fly the flag to prove that they're not homophobic, I'd rather they didn't, because it becomes an empty, cynical gesture.
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