A note about Rainbow Day
by Zoe Easton
There are 301 seats in the House of Commons, 24% of these seats belong to women, making Canada rank 39th worldwide for women’s representation. Worse yet, less than 10 of these seats are held by openly queer members of parliament and a grand total of zero belong to trans identified or non-gendered people. Is the purpose of the purpose of elected members of parliament not to represent the population equally? Does this lack of representation then mean that as LGBT youth we are less significant as a vote? Does this mean that we should pay less attention to politics? These were all questions that went through my mind on the morning of May first when I was welcomed to Parliament Hill for “Rainbow Day”.
Though these questions are hard to answer, and hard to find light within, a small group of dedicated MPs and staffers took us under their wings and tried to show us the hope for being a homo in the house. During my hours with NDP MP Phillip Toone, I noticed nothing “alternative” about his interactions with his colleagues or the dedication with which he approached his day. What I saw was a man who was well dressed and never left the room without a handshake and a smile. I saw someone who could flawlessly alternate between French and English, even though they were born and raised a francophone. Someone who welcomed me as a person with valid and interesting perspectives, and listened attentively to me while also sharing his own personal anecdotes. I could see nothing about Phillip which wasn’t absolutely delightful and that I wouldn’t want in my own member of Parliament.
When I met Mr Toone’s staffers and fellow MPs (many of whom were also LGBT) they furthered my positive impressions of him by claiming he was a modest man who would never let me know how hard he actually worked. Mr Toone responded by saying, “These people are the really impressive ones, they work so hard to make us look good.” Mr Toone clearly had a very amicable relationship with his colleagues and took an interest in the details of their personal lives, up to things as seemingly insignificant as their haircuts. I was asked a rhetorical question while discussing equal representation of LGBT citizens, “If so little MPs are openly gay, how can they possibly represent our population equally?” The answer? They can’t. As was mentioned during our morning breakfast, we are 24 seats short of equal representation of the LGBT community.
During Rainbow Day I shadowed an MP, someone who could be accused of pushing a “Gay Agenda”, but when I considered the under representation of Queer citizens, and transgendered people I thought to myself, “Maybe we do need to push the gay agenda just a little bit more. In fact, what we really need to push is a true equality agenda, so that we can all feel equally represented in parliament by someone who understands our struggles.”
I would be proud to have any of the MPs who I met on May First represent me in Parliament. I would like to thank them all personally for their excellent work with the shadow program and with being so personal and friendly with us both as individuals and as a group. The participating MPs are as follows: Randal Garrisson (NDP), Danny Morin (NDP), Phillip Toone (NDP), Libby Davis (NDP), … They all do excellent work, with their own sexualities taking a back seat to their passion for the job. I feel as though years from now we will look back at these names and remember that they were some of the first and that we were on the right side of history.
Finally, I would like to say that our work is not finished. For the Trans* community there has been far too many injustices over the years, perhaps some of which could have been advocated against if there was a transgendered member of parliament to represent them. Though we cannot guarantee that a trans* Member of Parliament is elected, we can all join to try to make a difference in our own way. Making a difference starts by signing this trans rights petition.