I would not be surprised if everyone wondered why I would have walked in the Pride Parade. Or put differently, why a Cis, straight male would march in the biggest event held by Calgary’s LGBTQ community?
For, I am not an intimate member of the LGBTQ community. Some might defend my actions by noting that I am an ally. Those supporters would note that allies like Alberta Liberal members, and former MLAs, Laurie Blakeman and Kent Hehr have challenged the Government of Alberta in its Legislature. In their act of defiance, while they were Liberal MLAs, those two people were able to get Albertans to answer one question: what type of province do we want to be – inclusive or narrow minded?
Others from the LGBTQ community might have said that on a day of Pride that was not good enough. It was a day when more was needed, where those of the LGBTQ community should be front and centre, on display for their community to see. They might say that while Russell might be sympathetic to our plight, he doesn’t share the experiences of the rest of us. He doesn’t know how it feels to have your love or love life degraded or mocked. He doesn’t know how it feels to be beaten up or assaulted because of who he loves or how he acts. Nor does he know what if feels like to worry about your job, or be fired, because of who you are. So why should Russell Scantlebury be allowed to defend, speak for or march with – or alongside – members of the LGBTQ community? Now, all of that is true. While, I know what bullying feels like and while I know what it is to be different, I don’t know have intimate knowledge of them in an LGBTQ community context.
I could look to other sources. I could remind all of us of Pastor Martin Niemöller words.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
But speaking up for one’s neighbour is different than being a part of a group. Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King, Jr all spoke up for their group. They all spoke up for injustice that they themselves felt. So what pain could a Cis, straight male possibility feel about the injustices experienced by the LGBTQ community?
The truth is I can’t. However, I can speak on behalf of my daughter. I speak for her because she can’t speak for herself. I speak in her interest because she is four and she is untainted. She doesn’t know about sex. She has yet to understand what it means to be straight, transgender or cis, to be gay or bi. She is a four year old girl who has yet to be bullied for her sexuality and yet to question or be questioned about her gender. While, words like asexual and pansexual mean nothing to her, they mean something to me. And so I am here to speak for her.
As a father, I would like her to grow up in a world where she doesn’t have to know about the limitation of opportunities because of her race or gender, because of her sexual orientation, sexual expression, gender identification and/or gender expression. It is my hope that she will be judged on the content of her character rather than anything else. So, I speak and write for what can be. Today, I talk to, and for, all the possibilities of my daughter.
However, to speak to that world, to speak for her, I have to speak to and for all her family members, acquaintances, compatriots, friends and colleagues. I have to speak for a generation that is just learning and one that is yet to be. I have to speak today for the Zanders, Edens, Aileens and Aidans of this world because we don’t know any of their futures. Statistically, we know that some of my daughters’ generation will express their membership in the LGBTQ community, so I speak to all of their potentials. Whether, they be straight or gay or those who might be pansexual, transgender, lesbian, asexual or bisexual, they are all valuable citizens who must be allowed to grow and flourish. For in allowing them to be who they are our society benefits. Our society gets to benefit from their knowledge and abilities. For one of them, might discover the cure to cancer or create a new symphony. By accepting all citizens, we as a country gain.
In saying that, though, I have to acknowledge that our world is not at a point where all members of the LGBTQ are accepted. While we allow those for same sex marriage, we do have a problem with accepting those transgender individuals into our workplace and families. So we have to work harder because our world is not where it should be. Accordingly, I say that we need to work harder and longer to create a world which is even more accepting, inclusive and responsive than this one.
Consequently, I walked in pride as an act of both acceptance and change. I marched in the Pride Parade to acknowledge that our society can be more creative and innovative with its institutions and that those acts have to be both small and large. But most importantly, those acts must be constant and consistent with our goal of a better world. So I marched because as a Liberal, I accept the “Other”: the future potential of my daughter and her generation. I marched to demonstrate my promise to them and my aim to do my part.