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Letter to the Editor: Beyond the rainbow, Critical hope during the surge of far-right politics

June marks the beginning of pride month, a time that commences the wave of rainbow-covered corporation logos, reposts of queer-owned businesses on social media, and of course, the pride parades. The dazzle, shimmer, and colourful scenery commemorates the deep culture and history of 2SLGBTQIA+ folx. This is a time of celebration and joy for many of us: allies and those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ — but don’t let the colours blind you. The rise of far-right politics seeks to threaten and eliminate the very fabric of queerness; our right to exist, love, and thrive is contested. 

How can “progressive societies” take one step forward while simultaneously taking 5 steps back? 

2SLGBTQIA+ rights are under attack. Consider the examples in the United States: red states such as Mississippi, Florida, and Oklahoma wage oppressive bills against trans people. The proliferation of anti-trans bills includes the denial of gender-affirming care to youth, preventing trans women from participating in sports, prohibiting the mention of trans people in classrooms, and the ban of books discussing gender identity. Similarly, the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ is one of the 491 anti-LGBTQ bills that the American Civil Liberties Union documents. This onslaught has prompted the Human Rights Campaign to recently declare a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States. Policies not only fail to protect 2SLGBTQIA+ folx but are weaponized as instruments of the state to strip away basic human dignity. 

Such parallels in the United States can extend to Canada. The notion of Canada as a tolerant, inclusive, and welcoming nation should not mask the pervasive, deep-rooted problems that our country continues to face. For instance, 2SLGBTQIA+ folx report barriers to accessing adequate healthcare and experience high rates of violent victimization. Anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes are no new phenomenon in Canada. Only a month ago, there was a call to a local Manitoba school division to remove library books on sexuality and gender identity.  Similarly, Calgary is not immune to the ramification of far-right politics. Hate exists here: there was a recent interruption of a drag event by a man who was later charged with a hate crime and anti-trans protestors congregated outside of Western Canada High School. The veil of a pluralistic Canada can overshadow the violence that 2SLGBTQIA+ folx continue to suffer.

At the root of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and sentiments lies the influence of rhetoric expressed by far-right politicians and groups. Many of them have compared trans children to feces, while others jump on the bandwagon of American culture wars, attacking “wokeness” and condemning “gender ideology.” A notable politician in Alberta has even idolized far-right figures in America.  Far-right politics brew widespread hate and fear. The ideologies rooted within this end of the spectrum consist of Christian fundamentalism, far-right populism, and white supremacy–ideologies that are incompatible with the fundamental belief in human dignity for all. The mobilization of the far-right movement is indeed a bad omen against an inclusive and safe society. 

The far-right’s war against 2SLGBTQIA+ folx has seemed like an indefinite force. It can even elicit feelings of hopelessness, despair, and fear. But we must remain hopeful– have critical hope during times of social injustice. Take a look at what’s happening: in 2017, Canada enshrined gender identity and expression into the Canadian Human Rights Act and following the protestor at the drag event, the City of Calgary was quick to pass safety bylaws preventing protests within a 100m radius to libraries and recreation facilities. Whether it be small or big wins, these wins signal a sign of hope. bell hooks states “critical hope is not a passive optimism that everything will work out on its own. It requires critical engagement with the world, an analysis of power structures and systems of oppression, and a commitment to taking action to bring about social change.” Critical hope should neither be immobilization by complacency nor the mere ideals of the “what-ifs,” but rather, it is the active resistance against the social ills of our world. 

Thus, this is a call to all of you to participate in this journey of critical hope. Alongside the laughter, celebration, and party should be moments of deep reflection and action. Let pride month be a catalyst of social change — a spark in a collective movement that moves beyond rainbow capitalism and performative activism but engages in meaningful solidarity. 

“It is in the collectivities we find reservoirs of hope and optimism,” 

Angela Davis 

It is in critical hope that we achieve liberation for all.

— Thomas Tri (he/him) 4th-year Bachelor of Social Work student with minors in Global Development and Gender Studies

Letters to the Editor published in the Gauntlet’s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board. The Gauntlet retains the right to edit submissions for brevity and clarity.

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