Tag Archives: homophobia

Bias and Power

13 Nov

There are many things I could write about under this title, but today, I’m going to highlight a decision by a judge in Utah to remove a foster child from a home just because the couple caring for her are lesbians.

This is a perfect example of bias – one person’s perspective, based on how they see the world – and the way that bias, when coupled with power, can impact lives in a negative way.

Luckily the press is on this, and the Governor of Utah is as well. We’ll see what happens next.
But there are many cases like this that occur every day around the world that are not in the spotlight and are not addressed nor resolved.

We all have bias and unconscious bias. It is inherent in our institutions as well. Systemic discrimination is so embedded in the fabric of our societies that we no longer notice it as such; it is simply “the way things are”. Which means that it is crucial that systems are in place to educate employees on, raise awareness about, and help to mitigate bias and unconscious bias (in policies and procedures) especially in institutions that serve the public: education, health care, child welfare, and the judicial system are a few examples.

The press around this case makes me hopeful that the ruling will be overturned, and that the baby can remain with her foster parents (by the way research shows that children in same sex families are not at risk in any way, and in some cases, fare better).

But the bigger issue is that this happened in the first place.  And that it’s not an isolated incident.

See more.

Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families


Sexual Harassment and Intersectionality

4 Nov

Thanks to Jian Ghomeshi, there has been a lot of talk over the past two weeks about sexual violence and sexual harassment.
It’s good that we are talking about it.

Yesterday I caught the tail end of an interview on CBC radio about sexual harassment in the workplace, and why women don’t come forward.

And I thought, what about intersectionality? Have we interviewed women who are not white, or who are lesbian, or who don’t have a post secondary education (for example) about their experiences of sexual harassment at work?

Intersectionality means that we have many identities that intersect and impact our experiences of discrimination or harassment. In a culture of silence (still), bringing a complaint of sexual harassment forward is already tough enough. Racism or homophobia or classism (for example) on top of this can add further layers of silence as people try to negotiate their safety and justice in a world that doesn’t want to see them for all that they are or what they contribute – which spills into how (and if) they are heard. Coming forward with a serious complaint against someone who likely has more social power than you – in more identities than gender – would require even more courage and fortitude.

I’d like to hear a discussion on the radio about that.

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Copyright 2014 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Recognizing Discrimination in a Multicultural Society

18 Sep

I just saw the news about the Blue Jays player Yunel Escobar  who had a homophobic slur written in his eye-black during a game this weekend.

It reminded me of the challenges of recognizing discrimination in a multicultural society.

If Escobar played the whole game with these words on his face, a few things come up for me:

1. Either no one else on the team speaks Spanish, or none of them cared (or cared to speak up). If it’s the latter, it’s problematic either way.
2. If no one speaks Spanish, wasn’t anyone curious or is writing in your eye-black a common thing?
3. And how brazen!  Millions of people would see that message on TV, watching the game (all the more reason to ask questions #1 and #2). So I’m going to ask: did no one care to find out what this said? Or for those that knew, why didn’t anyone say or do something?

The answers are obvious, in some ways. Speaking up can be difficult. But especially with so much at stake (How many people watch a baseball game? How many are kids? How many kids idolize baseball players and want to be like them?) someone should have asked and/or said something. Remember, silence equals complicity.

In a society where many language are spoken, it gets a little more complicated, and our responsibility includes asking questions and educating ourselves about the words that can hurt in different languages.
Especially as teachers or people in positions of authority – or role models.
If you want to stand up against discrimination, you have to be able to recognize it, and to do so, you have to know what the hurtful words are  – and not just in English.

Of course, some people worry that exposing the slurs – in any language – teaches them, and that they will be used more. Especially in schools.
That may be. But the alternative is that people are being targeted and bullied without our knowledge. And we can’t stand for that, especially in schools.

So. Take some time to learn the slang, so that when you hear it, you can speak out against it. It could make all the difference to the person being bullied.

Egale Canada has a Terms and Concepts page on the My GSA website that includes slang. Check it out.
Finally, this is homophobia in action: the words Escobar wrote in his eye-black as well as the silence. Homophobia is rampant in the sports world. If you haven’t seen Brian Burke’s If You Can Play, You Can Play campaign yet (anti-homophobia in the NHL), have a look. Baseball should get on board.

See more.

Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

The Power of a Name

7 Jun

This week in Ontario, Bill 13 (the Accepting Schools Act) passed. This Bill addresses bullying and includes clear reference to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as types of bullying. Hooray! Naming is powerful in fighting oppression.

One of the aspects of the Bill that has received much attention is that Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) will be able to be named as such in schools. As you may have read/heard about, this caused no shortage of debate and disagreement among some school boards, educators and religious leaders.

The bottom line is this: when we name something, we can address it.

A GSA is a club which, by design, helps to address homophobia, biphobia, transphobia (the fear and hatred of LGBTQ people, which can manifest as verbal and physical harassment – bullying – exclusion and physical harm including death) as well as heterosexism (the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that it is the only “normal” sexual orientation), and cis-normativity (the assumption that everyone is cisgender, and that maleness and femaleness is a binary). And the name suggests the mandate. It is a club where queer students and their allies can talk, strategize about how to make their schools safer, and support each other in these endeavours (as well as when incidents of the above occur). They are a safe space in a possibly otherwise hostile environment (in some cases) and a focal point for change even in accepting environments.

While a social justice club can, technically, do the same thing, if we can’t use the word “gay” in the club name, I wonder about the efficacy of dealing with homo/bi/transphobia in that setting – of naming the issues and dealing with them.

Naming something creates the space for it to exist. It validates it. And it’s the first step in addressing a problem because without a name, what are we really talking about?

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion.


Making things better for LGBTQ youth

23 May

Every once in a while I’m touched by the commitment and compassion of an organization to make the world a better place and create spaces where people are and feel valued for who they are.

TD has been on my list of exemplary companies around LGBTQ issues, and the launch of their new “It Gets Better” video is another example of what we can do when we walk the talk about inclusion. What I like most about it is the honesty and the  acknowledgment of how hard it can be to be yourself in the face of hate and lack of acceptance – and that this hate is not about you. Wow. I wonder how many hearts will be touched by those words? How many kids will take another breath and keep going because someone not only said “it’s going to get better” but “it sucks now, and it’s a systemic problem”? (Someone in a position of power and in a suit, no less!)

I have heard Ed Clark (the CEO of TD) say, with my own ears, that TD will never put profits before people. I know that they are committed to LGBTQ communities because he found out (years ago) that a high level executive at TD felt he had to quit because he was gay. TD has been transformed internally as well as in their community support because someone in power “got it”, and did something about it.

There are many ways to make a difference – big ways and small ways – no matter who we are.
Speaking up for, or standing beside someone as an ally are two ways that can help to begin a ripple of change that could change someone’s whole world.

Watch the video.
Be inspired.

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Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia – tomorrow May 17th!

16 May

Tomorrow is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

If you’re in the Toronto area, and want to get involved, here are a few things to consider:

Egale Canada is hosting a FREE breakfast at the Sutton Place Hotel (8:00 – 9:30am).
Come and start your day with some food and awareness-raising. Speakers include the Ontario Minister of Education, the Chair of PFLAG Toronto and the VP of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers (to name a few).
Contact RSVP@egale.ca or call 1 888 204 7777 to reserve a spot!!

Flag Raising 12:30pm at Toronto City Hall.
Brian Burke will be speaking.

Reception 4:30-6pm, Committee Room 230 at Queens Park
Co-hosted by Egale Canada and PFLAG Toronto.
RSVP: bryn.hendricks@rogers.com

See you there!

See more.

Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.

LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces

18 Nov

This week’s article in the Toronto Star about the changes in Canadian workplaces for LGBT employees is encouraging. It is good to hear from large corporations who are making a difference in the daily lives of their LGBT employees. 

In our quest to further inclusion, invisible diversity is often much harder to address because we don’t see it. For lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-identified employees there is another layer: fear. What will change when people know? Will I be safe? Comments like “that’s so gay” and homophobic jokes (as well as silence about these rather than clear messages of inappropriateness) poison the work environment for LGBT people and send a message that it’s not safe to be out. For workplaces to be safe for LGBT employees there needs to be solid expectations about zero tolerance for homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism in policy and practice, awareness-raising, and support.

The Toronto Star article mentions several examples of  how to move towards more LGBT inclusive workplaces: Employee Resources Groups with executive champions (RBC), forums to discuss what it feels like to be LGB or T in the workplace (IBM), supporting community initiatives (TELUS), and including relevant benefits (TD). Strategies and commitments such as these help increase visibility, and create awareness and opportunities for dialogue that enable us to make the changes necessary for the inclusion of LGBT colleagues in our workplaces.

Leadership, of course, is key; without commitment from leadership, these programs lack the impact necessary to help create lasting change.

Hats off to the companies listed in this article, and their employees who are helping to make LGBT inclusive workplaces a reality across the country!

See more.

Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

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