Religion continues to be one of the strongest determinants of a person’s view of homosexuality. While a largely secular society, Canada’s institutions are built on a foundation of Christianized norms of heteronormativity and transphobia. These sectors include the family, worship communities, healthcare, and education.
In its landmark 39-page report, Rainbow Faith and Freedom introduces the wide landscape of faith-based 2S-LGBTQIA+ discrimination. This report addresses the most critical areas of where faith-based discrimination operates, surveying research from the last fifteen years, and documents the long-lasting impacts of this exclusion.
Some highlights from the report:
- 40 – 60% of the youth houseless population are estimated to be 2S-LGBTQIA+, in part due to familial rejection and intolerance on the basis of religion.
- Queer seniors experience greater loneliness and isolation than their heterosexual counterparts.
- 2S-LGBTQIA+ people cut off from their religious communities report feelings of profound loss and grief.
- When queer people of faith internalize homophobic teachings from their church, they are more likely to self-harm or feel suicidal.
- In the past few years, religious officials have been dismissed for being 2S-LGBTQIA+, religious groups have used anti-2S-LGBTQIA+ programming for youth, and Christian groups across the country opposed plans to ban conversion therapy federally.
- Two-thirds of 2S-LGBTQIA+ students feel unsafe in schools.
- Sexual and gender minority youth attending Catholic high schools and Christian colleges report fears of suspension, discrimination and physical violence.
- Teachers in secular schools are fearful of “religious pushback” when intervening in discrimination in the classroom.
- Lesbian, trans, and gay teachers are fired for their identities.
- Conversion therapy, which has been shown to lead to severe mental health challenges, is still legal federally and mainly conducted by religious groups.
- Queer elders fear being pushed back into the closet when entering faith-based long-term care homes and other healthcare facilities.
- 60% of 2S-LGBTQIA+ people do not disclose their sexual orientatio to their healthcare providers.
The report states:
In attempting to map the landscape of Canadian faith-based heterosexism and transphobia, we see the limitations of what people can access to make informed choices about their schools, healthcare providers, and worship spaces. All the more apparent is the incredible absence of spaces aimed at combatting religious-based anti 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination in secular contexts, as many organizations presume that they are free of these ideologies. In many sectors, we see how religious beliefs show up and affect the quality of care, the educational experience and access to community support networks. The colonial project of religious ‘Westernization’ continues in many aspects of Canadian society. Naming these issues is the first start.
What is clear is the need for public awareness as well as safe community spaces where 2S-LGBTQIA+ people can explore their spirituality without guilt and shame for their identity. If you are aware of or experience faith-based discrimination in the Okanagan you can report it here.