Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights — this year’s theme of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — provides an advocacy focus to champion people’s right to express their gender, to be free from violence, and to live with dignity.
As research by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Centre for Suicide Prevention shows, those with diverse gender expressions face unique stressors. Transgender people not only experience higher rates of discrimination and harassment than their cisgender counterparts, they experience poor mental health outcomes as a result. They are also at greater risk for suicide.
The well-being of people with diverse gender identities can be greatly affected by the characteristics, norms, practices, and spaces of our institutional environments. On this day, and every day, organizational leaders can become more aware and empathetic toward the value of positive mental health practices through the kinds of resources offered by Fondation Émergence.
Recent large-scale institutional changes in this direction are notable. Statistics Canada now includes gender identification on the census and distinguishes “sex at birth” and “gender” in its questionnaire. And in April, Health Canada announced plans to screen blood donors based on sexual behaviour rather than sexual orientation, ending a policy long viewed as discriminatory.
That said, more work needs to be done:
- In a December 2020 Trans PULSE Canada survey, 6.9 per cent of trans and non-binary respondents said the pandemic had led to changes in their living situations that meant living with someone who is unsupportive of their gender.
- According to research by Egale, in partnership with INNOVATIVE Research Group, COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative impact on the financial situations of people in Canada’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Statistics Canada also reports that they may be more economically vulnerable during the pandemic.
Such findings illustrate the need for continued investments in culturally relevant mental health and substance use supports for 2SLGBTQ+ communities and the importance of addressing barriers to accessing care.
Since the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia began in 2005, it has acknowledged the lived and living realities of those who face discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. The day itself is also significant: it was on May 17, 1990, that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders.
Today, it is championed and celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts remain illegal, and a campaign has been launched to secure the United Nations’ official recognition. Greater awareness, affirmation of identities, and inclusion through activities such as Pride Month help promote greater harmony and justice in society, which lead to more positive mental health outcomes for people in these communities.
During Pride Month this June, the MHCC — in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and with Leger — will share emerging research on how 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are faring throughout the pandemic. Among its key findings were that 2SLGBTQ+ communities are facing heightened rates of stigma, discrimination, and harassment, yet they are also resilient, hopeful, accepting, and inclusive.
President and CEO
Note: If your experience makes this day difficult, help lines are available from Hope for Wellness at 1‑855-242-3310 and from Talk 4 Healing at 1-855-554-HEAL. You can also text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time or reach out to the LGBT Youth Line for telephone (1-800-268-9688) or text (647‑694‑4275) support.
Mental Health Commission of Canada
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