A conservative LGBT organization plans to march, proudly, in the Capital Pride parade this weekend — but not everyone is happy about it.
On its website, LGBTory describes itself as a group of “conservative LGBT activists who want to break the left’s monopoly on the LGBT community.” The group officially launched earlier in 2015, but many members have known each other through conservative circles for years.
The group says it also aims to advocate for LGBT issues within the Conservative Party of Canada. “I’ve had a desire to see the party that I’ve thrown my support behind getting out and supporting me,” says Alex Lewis, LGBTory’s Ottawa spokesperson, who has been involved in conservative politics for seven years.
Lewis says the group doesn’t believe it’s in the Conservative Party’s interest to be involved with social conservative values — despite, it seems, the strong ties party leader Stephen Harper and other conservative politicians have built with socially conservative organizations.
LGBTory members say they’re excited to march in the Capital Pride parade on Sunday, Aug 23. Several already marched this year at Toronto’s Pride parade in June, where Ontario PC MPP Lisa McLeod and Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown joined them.
But Cayce Ainsworth, a local Ottawa activist, doesn’t believe LGBTory belongs in the parade.
“It seemed like a no-brainer to me that a group touting itself as supporting the rights and lives of the LGBTQI community would be able to say, ‘Hey, yeah, our politics are right-of-centre but these are points that cannot be budged on.’”
Ainsworth (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun they) has started a petition calling on Capital Pride to ban the conservative group from marching in the parade.
Ainsworth says LGBTory did not clarify its stance on several issues — such as Bill C-279, which would have added legal protection for gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act — to their satisfaction when questioned on Twitter.
Capital Pride has not yet responded to Daily Xtra’s request for comment.
The name of the group — borrowed from a similar organization based in the United Kingdom — has also raised some eyebrows. “It’s incredibly disrespectful to erase part of those identities to conflate with one’s own brand, and that’s exactly what is going on,” Ainsworth says.
But Lewis is emphatic in his, and LGBTory’s, support for the entirety of the LGBT community.
Trans erasure is the furthest thing from the group’s goals, Lewis says. “While we certainly are a conservative LGBT group, the word trans is included in that. We are an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans conservatives. I can’t drive that home enough.
“It’s certainly not our intention, nor frankly would it be in our interest, to see that in any shape, way or form removed.”
Lewis says the LGBT community has allies within both the Conservative and Progressive Conservative parties. He points to the 2013 vote in the House of Commons for C-279, in which 18 Conservatives broke with the party and voted in favour of it, and the vote for NDP MPP Cheri Di Novo’s bill to ban conversion therapies, which was unanimously supported by all three parties in Ontario’s legislature.
“[While] there may not be overwhelming support, our organization in particular supports the individuals that voted that way,” Lewis says.
Though Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown voted to restore the traditional definition of same-sex marriage in 2006 and against amending the Canadian Human Rights Act so that it would include gender identity as an enumerated ground in 2011, Lewis says he believes people’s opinions evolve over time.
In a Toronto Life Q & A, Brown said the 2011 vote to add gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act was “a long time ago,” and said he now feels comfortable “with teachings on sexual orientation and gender identity.” However, he declined to give specifics on his objections to Ontario’s updated sex-ed curriculum.
“We expect members to literally walk-the-walk when it comes to marching in the gay Pride parade with us,” Lewis says, adding that it speaks volumes that Brown joined the Toronto Pride parade this year.
“We believe in freedom of choice and freedom of expression,” Lewis says. “When our elected officials take that into consideration, we start pushing for bills that actually promote equal rights and not special ones.”
But Ainsworth, who says they are not affiliated with any political party, says it’s not enough for time to pass — politicians need to vocally distance themselves from those not fighting for LGBT rights.
“I would love to march hand-in-hand with conservatives in any Pride parade, but only knowing that they actually support my human rights; only knowing that they support the right of sex workers; and that children should be allowed to form GSAs in Catholic schools.”
Ainsworth plans on protesting the Capital Pride march, and invites others to do the same.
As for Lewis, he says LGBTory has no plans to stay away — they will be there with a large contingent, signs and all.
“We have to stop looking in the past and start realizing, maybe, just maybe, that organizations like LGBTory have some kind of impact on what is known as politics today — maybe not the organization itself but certainly the individuals that are now associated with it.”