The month of June is Pride Month! Pride month activities draw millions of people from all over the world and acknowledge the contributions that 2SLGBTQ+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Gender Diverse, and Queer) people have made on a local, national, and worldwide level. The month of June was selected to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969 and promote equal justice and opportunity for 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Led by transgender women of colour, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City organized an uprising in June 1969 to protest the widespread police harassment and persecution of 2SLGBTQ+ communities. This revolt represented the start of a campaign to repeal discriminatory laws and policies against 2SLGBTQ+ people in the United States. The Stonewall riots are seen as a crucial moment in 2SLGBTQ+ history, and they are credited for leading the fight for equal rights and opportunities for 2SLGBTQ+ people. Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, 2SLGBTQ+ communities across the globe have held Pride parades every June to continue their fight for equality.
On a local level, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Pride Toronto. In response to coordinated raids of four downtown bathhouses, known as “Operation Soap”, “Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Toronto,” now Pride Toronto, was officially formed.
For the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and diversity of 2SLGBTQ+ communities, but also to recognize the harmful impacts of biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia.
2SLGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented among young people who experience homelessness, as up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as 2SLGBTQ+. As reported in the COH and A Way Home study, Without A Home, 2SLGBTQ+ youth also report high rates of multiple experiences of homelessness and tend to leave home at an early age. According to the 2018 Point-in-Time count 11% of adults between the ages of 25 to 49 experiencing homelessness identified as 2SLGBTQ+. However, it is important to recognize that methodologies used to identify 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are not always inclusive and some individuals may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, which may result in significant undercounting.
While experiencing homelessness, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals may have difficulty accessing safe and identity-affirming housing and supports. Further, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) 2SLGBTQ+ individuals may also experience multiple forms of oppression, such as experiences of racism, ableism, and sexism in housing and employment searches, based upon one’s intersecting identities. The lack of safe housing and supports, and the multiple experiences of oppression, can lead to negative outcomes related to mental health and physical health, and greater exposure to victimization. Therefore, there is a need for the homelessness sector to develop sector-wide policies and guidelines to support 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and to develop 2SLGBTQ+ - specific housing and support services that address the intersecting identities of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.
A small number of 2SLGBTQ+ youth housing and support programs exist in Canada, including, but not limited to, Rain City in Vancouver, Pride Home in Saskatoon, Friends of Ruby in Toronto, and Sprott House in Toronto. The Making the Shift Demonstration (MtS DEMS) project, a collaboration between the COH and A Way Home Canada, also includes supports specific to 2SLGBTQ+ young people. The Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) project in Ottawa, through a partnership with Youth Services Bureau, the Canadian Mental Health Association Ottawa Branch, and John Howard Society of Ottawa, dedicated one HF4Y case manager to work exclusively with 2SLGBTQ+ young people on their housing and support needs. Case managers helped to support young people access gender-affirming health care, address family conflict, and develop community among 2SLGBTQ+ young people. The work of MtS DEMS and other communities across Canada demonstrates that inroads are being made to provide inclusive supports for 2SLGBTQ+ young people, but it highlights the need to enhance these supports to 2SLGBTQ+ of all ages.
For over 50 years, 2SLGBTQ+ groups have battled for their rights, and the fight continues today. The COH supports the 2SLGBTQ+ community and encourages all Canadians to join the fight for equal rights. Whether they identify as 2SLGBTQ+ or as an ally, everyone is invited to join in the celebration of equality. While it is great to go to a Pride parade, attend a street fair, visit a visual art installation, and shop from local 2SLGBTQ+ owned businesses it is also important to be engaged in ways that will have a long-term impact, such as being informed on the impacts of biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia and advocating for investments in 2SLGBTQ+ -specific services.