A local activist for Saanich’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-Gendered Community says comments from Coun. Fred Haynes that LGBTQ events should be more inclusive were well-intentioned but perhaps also show that more work needs to be done.
“I confess I laughed a bit when Haynes made his comment,” said Ryan Clayton, a local educator and facilitator. “I think he is very well intentioned but I think he misunderstands why events and spaces focused on LGBTQ people exist.”
Haynes made the comments at Monday’s council meeting.
“When we talk about LGBTQ events, it’d better be inclusive,” he said. “It could be L, G, B, T, Q and Straight, because in recognizing these events just as LGBTQ, how does somebody, who is straight as a demographic, also participate without being outed as other than straight?” he asked. Haynes said he himself does not have an answer to that question. “I want to raise that as a recognition. I myself like to attend these events. I am a [happily] married heterosexual. That is who I identify as. So that is just a little sensitivity I bring to the equation there.”
Haynes made those comments as council unanimously approved a series of recommendations in support of the LGBTQ community. They included among others a blanket policy to raise the pride and trans flags during Greater Victoria’s annual Pride Week, scheduled to run July 1 to 9 this year. Council last year voted to raise the flag for the first time.
Historically, heterosexual people have never been excluded from society because of their sexual orientation, which is why the LGBTQ community has had to carve out spaces and events specifically for themselves, said Clayton, who served on Saanich’s LGBTQ subcommittee tasked with advising the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee on issues concerning the LGBTQ community.
The committee Monday submitted its final report, which found among other points that members of Saanich’s LGBTQ community experience a high rate of harassment. “Most of the respondents (65.38 per cent) reported having experienced some form of harassment, ranging from silent harassment to physical violence,” it read.
Many members of the LGBTQ community have been made to feel unsafe in a lot of “majority” spaces, said Clayton. “There will always be a need to gather as a community, focused on our community, to talk about the issues and challenges facing our community.”
Clayton, however, is also prepared to give Haynes the benefit of the doubt. “That being said, Haynes has always been very supportive and I’m thrilled he wants to join our community in our celebrations,” said Clayton. “The whole reason we had an LGBTQ committee was to ensure council addresses some of the blind spots they may have regarding our community in Saanich and I think this just shows we always have more work to do to build understanding.”
Haynes made his specific comments about more inclusive LGBTQ events while commenting on a recommendation directing staff to investigate the mechanics and costs of designing a window sticker that would welcome all citizens.
“The idea may be to embed it [recognition of the LGBTQ community] in a larger welcoming sticker,” he said. “We have heard some concerns about how much is enough, how far should we go? So there may be a role to play, to look at that sticker that is welcoming to everybody, but inside that sticker, we make sure that we recognize the importance of this community.” Haynes then made his comments about the need for more inclusive LGBTQ events.