International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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CN Tower, Toronto

on. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was observed on May 17. That’s why today I’d like to thank the Canadian parliamentarians involved in the the Canadian Pride Caucus, which aims to advance the rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people. This community and their family members can rest assured that they have parliamentarians acting as their guardian angels within the Parliament of Canada.

My thanks go out in particular to the co-chair and co-founder of this caucus, Senator René Cormier, for his involvement in this cause and also for his benevolence towards me when, in 2018, my son, the youngest in the family, began to explore a trans identity, something that I didn’t see coming, but that he had sensed.

My 24-year-old son was as straight as they come. He was handsome, popular with the girls, athletic and an artist in his own way. When his sweetheart, a photography student, began taking artistic photos of herself with my son in drag, I suspected nothing about his gender identity. The photos were so beautiful and romantic. They were like paintings.

Little by little, cross-dressing gave way to androgynous everyday dress. He got rid of his beard and kept his skin smooth. The romantic relationship that was supposed to last a lifetime ended after six years. That was when, less than a year ago, he told us that he was going to start taking hormones, that he was changing his given name and that he was a she.

From what I have read about transness, his story is rather typical and ordinary, but for a parent it is not. I have a few childhood friends and extended family members who came out as homosexual when they were teenagers. Even after we found out, nothing changed about their appearance or who they were or who they still are. Gender incongruence is a different story. It is difficult to understand and involves a change in appearance and identity.

However, this reality has always existed. Evidence of that has been found in Egypt and Ancient Rome. Transness is often associated with cross-dressing. Many societies, including Indigenous peoples here in Canada and some Asian communities, are very accepting of transgender individuals. However, not much is known about this reality and it is difficult to estimate how common it is because of the many obstacles that these people must overcome before making their gender identity known.

Colleagues, transgender and non-binary identities aren’t a fad. We need to respect the courage of those who dare to break the mould. In closing, I’d like to say that the most important thing, as a parent, isn’t to understand but to accept the child’s gender and sexual identity. The battle against homophobia and transphobia is also waged at home, in parent-child relationships that must be respectful, caring and loving. Thank you. Meegwetch.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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