An earlier version of this article erroneously reported Norfolk County voted to exclude pride and other non-civic flags from being displayed on municipal property. This was incorrect. Norwich Township voted to remove pride and other non-civic flags from its property. We apologize to Norfolk County for the error.
There is an upsurge in anti-gender rights movements globally. 2SLGBTQIA+ people are under attack globally. Trans Murder Monitoring’s latest update shows that there were approximately 327 deaths recorded in 2022. Ninety-five percent of those murdered were trans women, and amongst this number, the majority of the victims were either Black, racialized, or migrant trans women and/or sex workers.
The data indicates the growing and perplexing global trends of hate and violence arising from transnational anti-gender rights movements that sit at the intersections of trans-misogyny, anti-black racism, colonialism, xenophobia and heteropatriarchy.
A recent report by the European International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) shows that violence against LGBTI+ communities reached its highest point in Europe and Central Asia in the past decade. Last year was the most violent year for LGBTI+ communities in the region. The report highlights anti-LGBTI+ hate speech by those in the public domain, the resulting murders and suicides of LGBTI+ people across Europe, and two terror attacks in LGBTI+ bars in Norway and Slovakia which killed four people and harmed 22.
In Slovakia, the national assembly is considering amendments to the law, which, if passed, would make legal gender recognition impossible.
Earlier this year, the Ugandan parliament passed a draconian legislation called the ‘anti-homosexuality bill’ that criminalizes consensual same-sex relationships and gender-diverse communities. Kenya continues to champion laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relationships, which have had devastating and deadly impacts on queer and trans communities and human rights defenders. Meanwhile, in the USA, there are currently 541 active pieces of anti-trans legislation nationwide.
Anti-2SLGBTQIA rhetoric in Canada
Although widely lauded as a progressive ‘oasis,’ Canada is no exception. Hate towards 2SLGBTQIA+ communities is consistently on the rise, and violence, harassment and abuse are routine in the lived experiences of trans and gender-diverse communities nationwide. A 2020 Canadian study found that trans-Canadians were likelier to experience violence and inappropriate behaviours online and at work than cisgender Canadians.
This year kicked off with Canada witnessing hate-motivated vandalism of Pride flags that were on display in people’s homes, in schools in Nova Scotia and Halifax, and at an anti-2SLGTBQIA+ protest of a children’s drag story event in Montreal. In April 2023, the township of Norwich, Ontario, voted to exclude pride and other non-civic flags from being displayed on municipal property. In the same month, a youth-led anti-trans group called Save Canada disrupted an International Day of Pink event at a local school in Ontario. It commemorated North America’s 2SLGBTQIA+ civil rights movement, the Stonewall Riots. In May 2023, the York Catholic School Board trustees voted against flying Pride flags at school locations.
More anti-LGBT+ demonstration events have already been recorded in Canada so far this year than in all of 2021, and 2023 is on track to exceed 2022.Sam Jones, Armed Conflict Location and Data Project
Online hate and violence
Online hate and digital violence are alarming key factors contributing to the rising hate experienced by 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in Canada and across the globe, often with life-threatening consequences. Canada has also witnessed coordinated online hate campaigns targeting queer and trans politicians, organizers and activists in the public domain.
In 2022, well-known trans activist Clara Sorrenti, also known as ‘Keffals,’ experienced doxxing and swatting after advocating for de-platforming the virtual anti-2SLGBTQIA+ platform called Kiwi Farms that was spreading misinformation about trans and gender diverse communities.
“Obviously, it isn’t the pizza’s that are the problem, but it is the threat that they make, that they know where I live and are willing to act on it in the real world,” said Sorrenti.
The harassment and abuse did not end there. To further harm her, Sorrenti’s family, loved ones and those associated with Sorrenti were also doxxed and swatted in the weeks following the initial incident until Kiwi Farms was eventually shut down.
Incidents of online harm, hate speech, and abuse raise questions about the pivotal role major companies like Facebook and Twitter must play in combating online hate and violence experienced by Black and racialized women, 2SLGTBQIA+ communities and other marginalized groups.
Under the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, social media enterprises have a key responsibility to respect all human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and non-discrimination, including taking action to prevent and end the abuse of those rights. Amnesty’s report Toxic Twitter- A Toxic Place for Women, points to Twitter’s responsibilities concerning human rights due diligence, under which it should continuously audit how its policies and practices are impacting users’ rights to freedom of expression and non-discrimination and take concrete actions to mitigate and prevent human rights abuses.
However, as the report highlights, Twitter has a history of brushing over its role in safeguarding the human rights of women and 2SLGTBQIA+ communities.
The social media giant has even recently omitted a key line from its “Hateful Conduct” policy that used to provide a layer of safety for trans and gender-diverse people from online abuse. Twitter’s policy used to state:
“We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals. In some cases, such as (but not limited to) severe, repetitive usage of slurs, or racist/sexist tropes where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may require Tweet removal. In other cases, such as (but not limited to) moderate, isolated usage where the context is to harass or intimidate others, we may limit Tweet visibility…”
In April 2023, the line in bold was removed from the policy guidelines altogether.
This policy change did not happen in silos. It was guided by Twitter’s new influential CEO Elon Musk, who announced a ‘free speech’ plan after taking over the platform in 2022. Under Musk’s leadership, not only has hate speech proliferated, but the platform has made millions, particularly from anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rhetoric and slurs that conflate queer and trans people with pedophilia by calling them “groomers” and “predators.”
In the face of rising hate and egregious attacks on the human rights of 2SLGTBQIA+ communities, we need urgent action to prevent hate from gaining more traction in Canada in both physical and online spaces.
During Pride month, join us in amplifying the demands and rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in Canada and across the world.
Sign and share our e-action calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada to urgently address rising 2SLGBQIA+ hate and violence.
Support LGBTQIA+ led organization Momentum’s national advocacy #Act4QueerSafety campaign that is calling on the Government of Canada to take action on rising anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate and violence before hate escalates further.
Sign this action to call on the members of the Slovak parliament to refuse a bill that would make legal gender recognition in Slovakia impossible.
Tweet to raise awareness about Uganda’s draconian ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill.’ You can also sign and share our actions calling on:
1. President Museveni to veto the anti-LGBT legislation.
2. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada to strengthen support for Uganda’s LGBTI+ communities and human rights defenders impacted by the ‘Anti-homosexuality’ legislation.
Like and share the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity’s tweets or create your own tweet with the tag #TransJoyisPowerful to encourage, uplift and support trans and gender diverse communities in Canada.
Express your solidarity with 2SLGTBQIA+ communities by attending your local community IDAHOBIT and Pride events and protests.
Read Amnesty’s blog about the impact of Uganda’s ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ on Ugandan LGBTI+ communities.
Read Amnesty’s Report Pandemic or Not: We Have the Right to Live to learn more about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGTBQI+ communities across Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Read Amnesty’s Report Toxic Twitter- A Toxic Place for Women.
Take Amnesty’s new online course Diversxs: the urgency to take action for LGBTIQ+ rights!
Listen to the Podcast “Why has it become harder to get gender-affirming healthcare in Ontario.”
Listen to the Podcast “How anti-trans hate speech online leads to real-world violence.”
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP IMAGE): Toronto Solidarity Protest against Uganda’s ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ March 2023. Photo by: Brayo Bryans.