Tag Archives: Pride

Black Lives Matter = Opportunity for Growth

7 Jul

Black Lives Matter Toronto halted to Pride Parade on Sunday to make some demands of Pride Toronto.

It’s not the first and won’t be the last of their bold activism. And, as Naila Keleta-Mae writes in her Globe and Mail article, the point is that they make people uncomfortable.

Here’s my perspective about activism and marginalized groups.

In a society where one is marginalized, doing things the way that stays within the comfort zone of those in power often means that we wait, that there is lip service, that there is smoke and mirrors as people in power appear to be hearing. But no one is listening, and change doesn’t come. Simply put, when we play by the rules, we are often left waiting. And with no progress.

So I appreciate Black Lives Matter Toronto’s unapologetic tactics that disregard comfort and the status quo, and that make their presence known. Being seen is a necessary part of the opportunity to create change.

The issues they are raising are not new. And that should be a clue to underscore the above – that without discomfort, without someone being willing to stand up, be loud, be brave, think outside of the box, and not back down – the needle doesn’t move much. There are many great leaders throughout history who have used this approach successfully.

Could Black Lives Matter Toronto have used their honoured group status at Pride differently? Of course.
Would it have been effective? Maybe.
Would it have caused the amount of conversation, debate, and discussion? I doubt it.

Here’s why:
Because again, anything that happens within the comfort of how the system operates can then be swallowed up, massaged and fed back from the system in ways that are comfortable and don’t make waves. This often can create the illusion of change, but not real change.

If we remain in the margins as we fight, the mainstream doesn’t have to see us, and our pain is not seen. If we make the mainstream take notice, we run the risk of invoking anger. Sure, anger can cloud what people see and hear. But it also causes conversation. Visibility is an important part of change. So are real conversation and debate. And for getting at the real issues that a society doesn’t want to recognize, face or talk about. And we have to.

What’s happening in the Toronto LGBTQ and the broader community because of this latest move by Black Lives Matter Toronto, is that the underbelly of racism is coming out.

Racism is alive and well in Canada. Those of us who are people of colour know this to be true. We see it, feel it, hear it. I often experience incredulity from workshop participants (who are white), that racism still exists in this country. It does. Here it is.  And even now, it may be easily dismissed, overlooked and discounted as just anger. But it’s not.

And so now more than ever before, we have the opportunity – and must – delve into conversations that are otherwise often brushed aside, overlooked, silenced. Because Black Lives Matter are shaking things up and exposing the underbelly. Systemic racism is deeply rooted in our society. So deep it can be hard to see unless you are impacted by it – and sometimes elusive even then. Black Lives Matter Toronto is giving our city (and beyond) the opportunity to grow, because the only way we grow is when we are out of our comfort zone.

All lives DO matter.
And because this is true, we need movements like Black Lives Matter to remind of this – because not all lives are treated and seen as though they do.

See more. 

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Food for Thought about Orlando

28 Jun

It’s been just over 2 weeks since the mass shooting at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were killed. As a member of the LGBTQ communities, and as a Diversity and Inclusion speaker, facilitator, and consultant (specializing in LGBT Inclusion) it has given me pause on many fronts. Here are a few thoughts.

The media and what we hear / don’t hear.

It was interesting to me that when I first started listening to the news on Sunday afternoon, PULSE was a nightclub frequented by a lot of LGBT patrons.
By Monday morning it was a gay nightclub.
But it wasn’t until I communicated with a friend over email on Monday afternoon, that I became aware most of the victims were Latino. Had I read the paper that morning, that would have been obvious.

I wasn’t tapped into all news sources, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a reminder that we hear what someone wants us to hear – which means it’s biased, reported through a particular lens, and we are potentially missing information.

Also, let’s think about which tragic events are labeled terrorism, and which perpetrators of crimes are labeled terrorists, and which are not. These words seem to be quickly and easily used when someone is not white, and if they are Muslim (or assumed to be). The media often seems to use these labels first and ask questions later in these situations – a courtesy they don’t seem to extend to white suspects or perpetrators. Hmmm…. In the world of unconscious bias, it seems that terrorism/terrorist, brown and Muslim are inextricably intertwined. Pay attention to that in the news. Notice.


Homophobia is alive and well.

There is more to this than you think.
The shooter has been described as homophobic, and his disgust at seeing two men kissing some time before was speculated to have fuelled the attack.
So was homophobia a motive? Since the nightclub was a gay nightclub, we can assume it was.

Here are a few things about homophobia:

  1. It’s systemic – and then we call it heterosexism.

We live in a world that assumes everyone is heterosexual or straight.
Many laws underscore this – marriage being one of the last to change in North America. The language used in policy and lawmaking can open up rights or cut people off from them.
Many countries around the world still have being LGBT as a crime – and in 10 countries it’s punishable by death. Still.

  1. Disregarding the homophobic nature of this attack is also an example of homophobia.Some people didn’t/don’t want to recognize this as a hate-motivated crime. That disregard is a further example of homophobia because it again seeks to make LGBTQ people invisible. It’s a perfect head-in-the-sand example: if I don’t see it or talk about it, it doesn’t exist.

Imagine what’s it’s like to be so hated that someone doesn’t even want to think that you exist. Imagine what that will do to your sense of self, your self-esteem, your ability to love yourself.

Homophobia can be internalized

Here comes the loop – if the message someone is getting from society and the people around them (including those they love and who love them) is that they are bad, evil, wrong, disgusting or that they don’t even exist, how can they possibly love themselves and be all of who they are? It’s impossible.

So then one has to make a choice: to be who you are and become all of those terrible things in the eyes of the people who care about you (and others – often many others depending on where you live) or to deny who you are. Both are painful.

It is no surprise then, to find out that the shooter was at the very least questioning his sexual orientation or was bisexual, that he had relationships and encounters with men. If you hate who you are (strong word and I’m using it on purpose), then it isn’t a far walk to hate others who are like you. And if you can’t be who you are, it can be difficult to watch others who can and are. And that pain, I imagine, might result in inflicting severe pain on others who make this pain more real for you by living and loving life in a way you cannot.


The more we create LGBT inclusive spaces, the more (and the earlier) we talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and create classrooms and schools that are LGBT inclusive, the more opportunities we will have, as societies, to grow, accept, and love everyone. The more opportunities LGBT people will have to feel safe, loved, accepted for who we are. This will help to reduce loneliness, fear, anger, frustration, desperation because we won’t have to choose being invisible over being who we are.

If you’re an ally – we need you to speak up, and speak out. It’s not enough to quietly be supportive of us, we need you to share your commitment out there in the world as you walk through your day. Respond to homophobic comments and ideas. Challenge people to think differently, think again, see more. Allies are crucial to creating safer spaces for LGBT people – you are heard and seen differently; in a way LGBT people may not be, because it’s not personal; it’s not about you.

Sending prayers for Orlando, and everywhere as we work to increase awareness, acceptance and love.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

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Happy Pride Week!

27 Jun

If you live in the Toronto area, Happy Pride Week!
The rainbow flag is everywhere – a great opening to talk about LGBTQ issues.

Even sweeter this week is the US Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage – making it legal in 13 US states and DC. There are 30+ states in which it is still illegal, but this is a big step.

And while that is big news for the citizens of those US states, and another victory for LGBTQ rights worldwide, let’s not forget that we all contribute to victories like this by adding our voices, and being allies.

Some of you work in companies that have LGBTQ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), or whose companies are interested in corporate social responsibility. Here is a great video on LGBTQ safer schools that I just saw and think is amazing. It’s from PFLAG, and it’s part of a partnership with Johnson & Johnson in the USA.

But if your ERG or your corporate social responsibility department is looking for a worthwhile project – this is a great example of what is possible. LGBTQ youth (and those perceived to be LGBTQ) are not feeling safe in school. The statistics are staggering. In Canada, you can call Egale Canada. They are doing amazing work with their Safer Schools Campaign, to help make schools safer for LGBTQ kids.

Get involved! Help make a difference!

Happy Pride!

See more.

Copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

Gender Neutral – huh?

29 Jun

First of all, “Happy Pride” if you live in Toronto!

One of the most common questions I get as a pregnant woman is “do you know the gender of your baby?”
This is a problematic question for a couple of reasons (at least):

1. The term is not correct: Sex and gender are not the same thing (although they are used interchangeably)
2. Even if I knew the sex, I still wouldn’t necessarily know the gender (that is something that will become apparent over time, once this child is born)

The fact that I don’t know the sex of the child I’m carrying causes all number of shocked responses.
But when I use “they” the reactions are priceless: it starts with “twins!?” and then quizzical looks when I say “No, I’m using “they” in the gender-neutral sense” – which then requires an explanation, since most people are stuck on the idea that ‘they’ means plural. Period.

Which brings me to my point.
Last week I was having such a conversation with some family members of my parents’ generation. They didn’t get it. But the one child in the room (grade 3) was curious. So I explained gender-neutrality something like this: Some people don’t want to be in a box of “girl” or “boy” and so they don’t use he or she, they use “they” instead.

The response? She paused fora brief moment and said “that’s fair”.

End of conversation.

See more.

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




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