BY MITZI DEAN
Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity
Pride brings communities together throughout our province in honour and celebration of the LGBTQ2S+ community’s hard-fought journey to attain the human rights and freedoms so many others take for granted.
As B.C.’s first parliamentary secretary for gender equity, I am both inspired and humbled by those on the forefront of change. Pride is a celebration – but it is also a protest. As we celebrate the incredible progress LGBTQ2S+ people have achieved, we must also recognize the challenges thousands of people confront right here in B.C., simply because of who they are.
Unless you have experienced marginalization or discrimination, it can be hard to understand the experiences of those who have. The reality is that LGBTQ2S+ people continue to face stigma and discrimination, putting the community at risk for much higher rates of violence, poverty and mental health issues, among other complex challenges.
LGBTQ2S+ children face higher rates of bullying in school, which can result in depression and a seven-fold increase for suicide risk. Transgender people experience disproportionately high levels of violence, abuse and discrimination. This is a reality we can’t ignore if we are to achieve a truly inclusive society.
After two years, we have made important progress in protecting the rights, freedoms and safety for LGBTQ2S+ people in our province. While we are building a B.C. free of discrimination, where everyone has equal access to opportunities and human rights protections, we still have a lot of work to do.
B.C. government actions
One of the first things we did as a new government was re-establish B.C.’s Human Rights Commission, which was dismantled in 2002, leaving B.C. as the only province in Canada without one. I’m proud that we appointed Kasari Govender as B.C.’s first independent human rights commissioner, marking the start of a new era of human rights protections for all British Columbians.
Our government took action to ensure the spectrum of gender identity is included on B.C. government identification – now, British Columbians can choose “X” as a third option in the gender field.
We will soon be providing publicly funded, gender-affirming lower surgeries in B.C., making us the first province in Western Canada to offer these essential procedures right here at home.
Today, all 60 school districts and several independent schools have joined the B.C. SOGI Educator Network to help schools be more inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI). This will go a long way toward helping LGBTQ2S+ youth get the support and guidance they need to feel safe and understood in school.
And finally, the government has expanded coverage for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), providing vital preventative protection from HIV to the citizens of B.C.
Pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go. A more inclusive society leads to a higher quality of life for everyone and it is every person’s right to be who they are without fear and stigma.
Our government is honoured to serve as an ally and a champion for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities – and to keep the momentum going. I hope you will join us in advancing the rights and freedoms for British Columbia’s LGBTQ2S+ community, making B.C. a place where people are truly free to be who they are.