Friday, March 2, 2012

RE: Minister of LGBTTQ Affairs


Dear Brian Topp,

I am writing in response to your March 2nd policy release in which you pledge to create a Minister of LGBTTQ Affairs. As a New Democrat who identifies as gender-queer, I am offended at the tokenization this represents, and as a taxpayer, I am skeptical of your ability to spend public dollars appropriately.

The action points of your press release are as follows:

·         Create a strategy to address bullying, homophobia and transphobia;
·         Review legislation and regulations to ensure they are inclusive of LGBTTQ people; including marriages of non-Canadians that took place in Canada;
·         Reverse the criminalization of people with HIV/AIDS;
·         Enhance the rights of transsexual and transgender Canadians; and,
·         Re-establish our good name abroad and speak out for LGBTTQ rights in other countries.

These ideas are vague goals untied to policy proposals, which during a leadership campaign is not uncommon; however, this release has the audacity to argue that these vague points merit the creation of a new ministry. Your approach would institutionalize the social relations (and divisions) between queer and non-queer Canadians. Just like the Status of Women Canada serves to define the experience of Canadian women in opposition to Canadian men, a Ministry of LGBTTQ Affairs would do the same to queer Canadians.

Further Mr. Topp, the essentialist way you have approached queer issues is problematic in the same way second-wave feminism was. You are mobilizing a series of identity politics on the assertion that some identity groups are more oppressed than others. To be clear, there is no hierarchy of oppression, no two Canadians experience oppression in the same way, and Canadians live though and with compounding and conflicting oppressions. Racism is no less a problem than homophobia or sexism or any other axis of oppression. To cater to such an essentialist ideology is a disservice to the Canadian public.

Mr. Topp, do you believe racism has been solved in Canada? If not, do you propose we create a ministry to address racism in Canada? What I’m facetiously getting at is that it’s impractical to approach social equity through a mobilization of identity politics entrenched in expensive bureaucracy.

A better way forward would be to reform present resources into a workable model that can program toward the inclusion of all Canadians. Replace the Status of Women Canada offices with an empowered Ministry of Social Equity that seeks social justice for all Canadians. This ministry would address structural sexism, homophobia, ableism, racism, xenophobia, and other oppressions, without singling any group out. 

A Ministry of Social Equity would serve all Canadians, and this service would be paralleled by budget support. The debate on budget allocations for identity-based service offices is reductive and detrimental to public discourse. Questions of “haven’t we solved sexism in Canada?” have seen the programs at the Status of Women Canada emaciated. I fear the same fate for an ill-conceived Ministry of LGBTTQ Affairs.  

Within my lifetime, I do not expect any Canadian politician will have the audacity to assert that inequity no longer exists. Consequently, the arguments that a Ministry of Social Equity should be de-funded or destroyed are infinitely weaker than those targeted at any single identity-based bureaucracy.

This policy release is a clear attempt to isolate and curry votes, rather than innovate and advance our nation. I hope you agree with my criticisms and rethink your approach to queer politics in Canada.



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