International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2016
Pride Flag-raising at Toronto City Hall
Remarks by Toronto Pflag President Anne Creighton
Good afternoon everyone and thanks for taking time today to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Bi-phobia.
Once again I want to thank the Mayor for being the Mayor. In all seriousness, you are an Ally to our cause, you stand with us and we appreciate your support.
The theme for this day worldwide is mental health and well-being.
It was well within many of our lifetimes that just being LGBTQ qualified someone as mentally ill. And of course the irony is that our trans and queer kids do suffer depression, anxiety and ptsd at rates sometimes 3 times that of their straight and cisgender peers. The rates are highest when they are youngest: between 18 and 34.
At our Pflag support meetings we often hear parents talk about their children’s struggles: with depression and anxiety, often leading to self-medication and sometimes suicide attempts. These struggles start much earlier than 18. How can our kids deal with the isolation, worry and despair at being different when they are in elementary school? Even if they miraculously avoid bullying, not “fitting in” devastates their self-esteem.
Maybe after a few years of the recently revamped sex and health curriculum we will start seeing a difference. Surely it will help.
But we know from research done here in Ontario that the number one factor, by a long shot, for LGBTQ mental health is parental acceptance. If your Mom and Dad have your back, love and support you, it makes a huge difference.
So does having a roof over your head and a pay-cheque to deposit. And here is where things get tricky: Are LGBTQ people simply prone to depression or is the economic circumstance in which many of them find themselves, particularly when they are young, also to blame? Is it the intersection of these things that bring the statistical result that is so awful?
Of course it is, but it doesn’t start that way. Parents who come to Pflag tell us their children who are still at home are suffering. Their voices fill with anguish as they refer to the child’s “dark times”.
Researchers need to understand that mental illness doesn’t start at 18. If 18 to 34 years old is the most plagued cohort it stands to reason that there was a ramp up to that height.
Our kids need help. The curriculum is a part of that. More funding for children’s mental health should be a part of that. Allies will make the difference. Only we can amplify the voices of this minority to get things done.
And here is where Allies can help. First I want to ask all the straight cisgender people here to commit to adding their voices, their votes and their influence to getting help for our LGBTQ kids.
You can start today by calling your local elementary or high school and asking if they have a gender neutral or non-gendered bathroom for students. If they don’t, ask what the plan is. (May I add parenthetically that simply taking signs off some or all of the bathrooms accomplishes this?)
You can encourage your straight and cisgender kids to join their school’s GSA. And if the school doesn’t have one, they can go to the principal and demand one. It doesn’t have to be a gay kid who asks.
You can stop ANYone who makes a joke or insult at our kids’ expense. Homophobic language hurts. If we can learn not to use the “N” word we can learn not to use the “F” word.
You can support our LGBTQ homeless shelter, Sprott House and the second shelter being built by Egale. Be a mentor. Be a volunteer. Donate.
And most important: You can look your kids or your grandchildren in the eye and say, “I am ok with you being gay or trans. I will love you no matter what.”