(Editors Note: The article has been updated following a newsletter release from CCGSD)
The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD; formerly Jer’s Vision) has been criticized for an e-mail released by the organization which touts the support of Laureen Harper, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The e-mail released April 7 to promote the national “Day of Pink”, an anti-bullying campaign, included a message from Laureen Harper that stated “I will be wearing pink in support of tremendous Canadian organizations like the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and The Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (formerly Jer’s Vision). Organizations that work tirelessly to combat all forms of bullying. And I will be wearing pink to remind our young people that they are not alone. That their lives matter. That they are deeply loved.”
Jeremy Dias, executive director of the CCGSD, defended promoting Harper’s support through facebook, indicating that Laureen Harper was not her husband, and stated “Each one of us has a role to play in addressing homophobia and transphobia. I believe that it is important that we work together to support each other in their journey. I have always, and will always, welcome constructive feedback, ideas and opinions.”
Some community members have accused Dias of ‘pink washing’ and selling out to the Conservatives by using Laureen Harper as a spokesperson. Ariel Troster, a local community leader, thought the message was a link from the satirical site The Beaverton, not initially believing that the Conservative Prime Minister’s wife would send unsolicited emails to the nation’s queer activists.
Troster and other commenters argued that ‘Big Gay’ had abandoned trans* youth in favour of mainstream support. Troster referenced her research on homonationalism and pink washing, claiming this was another clear example of gay organizations selling out. In particular, a recent article in Vice detailed how the Harper government is tied to the battle to prevent trans* human rights protections. As the CCSGD has been a member of the Trans Equality Lobby group and working to pass C279, highlighting the support of Laureen Harper has been criticized as compromising CCSGD’s pro-trans* stance.
Other community members took issue with Harper’s message and accused her of complacency. Michael Tattersall, founder of National Capital Leather Pride, said in response to Dias “I may not go [to the Day of Pink Gala] now. I have my principles, and hers, by virtue of being ‘standing by his side in public,’ indicate hers are hollow. Does [the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity] really want to be associated with the lack of integrity that her name carries?” His sentiments were echoed by many others who responded to posts from other leaders in the community, including Kira-Lynn Lamby, who called the e-mail ‘adhorrent’. Tattersall also stated that he may switch his support to the ‘Pink Day’ in Nova Scotia where the idea originated within a high school, prior to CCGSD (then named Jer’s Vision) taking over the management of the ‘Day’. Queer Mafia member Dillon Black emphasized to VS the importance of recognizing the origins of the movement was with youth, not Jeremy Dias and the CCGSD.
In an interview with Dias, which aired in last week’s Velvet Studio episode, we asked him about the appropriation of the trans*experience and language around ‘name changing’. Jer’s Vision recently re-branded and dropped Dias’ name in the title of the organization. Dias insisted that it was never his vision but the vision of dozens of volunteers, and attributed the use of trans* terminology to a trans* identified member of staff.
[UPDATE] Following the publication of this article, and other media coverage CCGSD’s Zoe Easton issued a newsletter titled “These are the values that make up my #DayofPink. She states “The CCGSD has made our fair share of mistakes, and we are deeply sorry for the hurt and the anger we have caused.” The message was wrapped in the dialogue of Easton’s experience with abuse, and finding a degree of salvation with CCGSD. At the end of the newsletter she says “The CCGSD is a community organization made of survivors of trauma. The LGBTQ+ community in Ottawa is also made of many inspirational survivors, whom we listen to with intent. We are still learning, and more importantly unlearning, as an organization. We hope that, as a community, we can continue to educate one another through action-item based discussion and kindness, the most radical tool of change”.
The Velvet Studio will be following the story and will be bringing coverage of the Gala within the next couple of days.