‘You’re not alone’: Community organizes counter-protests against anti-LGBTQ+ movement

People protest at the Legislative Building in Regina, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

On Wednesday, anti-LGBTQ+ protests are planned across the country, including on Vancouver Island, and people are organizing counter-protests to show support for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In Victoria, there are multiple counter-protests planned, some before the march, some during and some after.

Balial has organized one to follow the protest starting at 3:00 p.m., and he says he hopes the counter-protests are important to show people that movements against LGBTQ+ people will not be accepted.

“Being able to represent your trans-ness and your joy in the school system, in everyday life, in public, in society is a very important thing. Nobody shouldn’t have to hide that about themselves,” he said.

“If they get what they want, who says they’re going to stop there?”

Balial says it’s important as the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric rises for allies and the community to come out and show they are opposed to the message.

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“It is really important as an ally, to show and to come and show your support. The title and ally isn’t something you can just give yourself it is something you earned by showing up,” he said.

“And for the queer people, it is important to have a Queer presence. Our community being there saying, ‘This is how we feel this is what needs to be done. This is what we don’t want to happen.'”

KJ Reed, a professor of studies in women and gender at Vancouver Island University, says the counter-protests are important because it shows queer and trans youth that there are adults and others in the community that support them.

“It’s sending the message that bigotry is not welcome in our communities, and it’s countering hate and bigotry with peace and love and celebration, sending the message that if you’re queer or trans, it’s great to be your authentic self,” they said.

“And especially for queer youth and trans youth, it’s important to see that support in the community, that you’re not alone, that you have adults who are going to stand by you and make sure that you have the best chance possible to live your life and become a happy, healthy adult.”

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Reed is undergoing a research study interviewing 47 trans and non-binary youth and the impact the growing rhetoric is having.

“Some are choosing not to come out, so this language actually is harming them, and others are digging in and refusing to be bullied into silence, but there certainly is more of an awareness of safety,” they said.

“Think the harassment and death threats, pride groups and to any individual who speaks out to oppose these types of movements, the stabbing in a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo this does have a chilling effect. And this is a time for people who care about inclusive communities to come together to oppose misinformation and bigotry.”

The people protesting LGBTQ+ rights are doing it under the banner of protecting children.

“Together, we stand united to safeguard the well-being and innocence of our children,” the 1 Million March 4 Children says on its website. “Uniting diverse backgrounds and faiths, we share a resolute purpose: advocating for the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.”

Reed says this language can be challenging because on the surface protecting children seems good on the surface.

“But we have to look at what are we protecting them from, and why are we protecting them from it, and the current movement right now is protecting them from allegedly protecting them from a curriculum that is being misrepresented,” they said.

“The protecting children rhetoric has been used throughout history for residential schools, for 50 years ago opposing gay rights ordinances, equal job protection, housing, anti discrimination.”

RELATED: Trans women must be included in fight for women’s rights, B.C. advocates say

In light of the protests planned for Wednesday, people have condemned the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

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For those attending the counter-protests, Reed has some advice:

  • Do what is comfortable for you. “Ask yourself, are you capable of hearing homophobic and transphobic statements and speeches and signs? Are you capable of not being baited into an argument? Are you capable of showing up in a good way? And if you’re not, that’s okay. There are plenty of ways to resist this type of bigotry without necessarily going out to counter protest.”
  • Don’t be baited into conflict. “There are often people within alt right protests that will try to bait counter-protesters into taking action that can be misrepresented or selectively edited on social media, and so don’t give them content, don’t interact, don’t be baited.”
  • Wear a mask. “I would advise wearing a mask to obscure your identity, and with COVID still around you want to protect yourself from that too, but you really don’t want to be in photos that may be posted to an alt right to an alt right blog or social media that will make you a target for alt right hate.”

In addition to the counter-protests in Victoria, there are similar movements in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, and Courtenay.

Laura Brougham

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