A Pride 2021 statement by the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada, and the CPC Pride Commission
The Pride Commission, made up of queer comrades from across the country, is an advisory body in the CPC.
Pride is again happening during the Covid-19 global pandemic. Under the conditions of capitalism, the pandemic is imposing harsher conditions on queer people. The Communist Party of Canada stands with the Two-Spirit / Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender / Intersex / Queer + (2S/LGBTiQ+) community as it resists attacks from rightwing forces. In Canada, many in the growing and diverse 2S/LGBTiQ+ community face impoverishment, homelessness, unemployment and poverty, in a harsh capitalist reality. A small privileged section of the queer community are being assimilated into the mainstream of capitalist society, at the price of less privileged 2S/LGBTiQ+ people and other exploited and oppressed people.
‘Rainbow Capitalism’ is not the answer
The illusion of “Rainbow Capitalism” only benefits corporate Canada. Created through Pride-themed rainbows on businesses and websites, this is a cynical effort to exploit the community. Displaying a rainbow is a necessary part of every marketing plan, but this is not liberation. After Pride, we all go back to work and experience exploitation and the oppression of homophobia and transphobia. Queer identities are commodified by corporations, like fast food chains, big banks, online retailers, media companies, and weapons manufacturers. This creates the illusion of acceptance which comes out of privilege, but what we really need is liberation from exploitation.
The attempt to co-opt and commodify queer identities has one basic purpose: extracting profit from the queer community for the benefit of wealthy investors and CEOs. But as Communists we know that queer liberation is a project for the community itself, and will never be handed to us by corporate Canada. The proof is everywhere. During the pandemic, queer people are still being beaten and oppressed across Canada. Many queer people, and especially those who are most vulnerable (youth, elders, BIPOC, women and femmes, poor people, trans people) still must hide their identities to survive. Homophobic and transophobic families still kick queer children out of their homes, or trap many who have few alternatives as safe spaces and resources disappear.
The illusion of freedom under capitalism cannot erase the need for queer liberation; quite the opposite – queer oppression is rooted in capitalist exploitation. This is a story we have seen before. Capitalism resisted demands for the equality of women, but then co-opted liberal and reformist sections of the feminist movement to erase its radical potential. The same is happening to the queer community with the appearance of “Rainbow Capitalism”. But capitalism – rainbow or otherwise – still depends on exploitation and oppression of all workers for its existence. This is why the struggle for queer liberation continues and must be the work of the queer community itself.
What happens after the Parades?
Rainbow branding makes big bucks for corporations, while racialized 2S/LGBTiQ+ people, trans and non-binary people, trans women of colour, and Indigenous Two-Spirit people suffer disproportionately from poverty and discrimination.
Consider the impact of the housing crisis. Mass homelessness re-emerged in the 1980s, when neoliberal austerity policies gutted investments in public housing, and reduced spending on social supports. Even before Covid-19, 35,000 people experienced homelessness in Canada. Today over 1.5 million people pay more than 40% of their income for rent; it costs an average $1,100 for a bachelor unit, and $2,300 a month for decent accommodations.
However, at least 40% of 2S/LGBTiQ+ people over 15 years of age make only $20,000 a year. 2S/LGBTiQ+ people are about 10% of the general population, but make up an estimated 20–40% of the unhoused population. One out of three homeless youth in Canada is 2S/LGBTiQ+. Corporate Canada does not care; it profits from Rainbow Capitalism, while queer youth STILL sleep on the streets, finding it nearly impossible to get work, education, or a safe place to live.
Trans women of colour are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, losing hard-won community supports that once sustained them when families and employers refused to accept their trans identity. About 34% of 2S/LGBTiQ+ youth report that violence or abuse made them leave home, compared to 16% of hetereosexual cisgender youth. 2S/LGBTiQ+ youth, experience much higher rates of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. The stress and collapse of capacity in healthcare and social programs during the pandemic, combined with homophobia and transphobia, means that many trans and non-binary Canadians are denied necessary health care.
Imperialism, Pinkwashing and Homonationalism
At home and abroad, “rainbow capitalism” encourages queer people to assimilate in order to win and protect their rights – bringing the scourges of imperialism, racism, and misogyny into the queer community. Assimilation into an oppressive culture is not liberation. We must oppose homonationalism, which manipulates the desire for queer liberation into support for the capitalist state, in exchange for a handful of reforms that mostly benefit a small elite minority in the queer community. We must oppose pinkwashing. which manipulates queer issues in order to disguise exploitation and oppression. The most egregious example of pinkwashing is the attempt to disguise Israeli Apartheid by portraying Israel as the “gay oasis” in the Middle East. We reject the argument that queer rights can be won and sustained by ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and genocide. Queer liberation requires a struggle against assimilation, exploitation, and oppression, and rejecting bribes at the expense of other oppressed people.
Rainbow capitalism inevitably leads to the recruitment of queer people into the police and military, a twisted imitation of liberation. Why should we participate in policing our own community, or in killing, exploiting, and sanctioning other 2S/LGBTiQ+ people?
Real queer liberation begins with unity and solidarity with the struggles for equality and justice at home and abroad. We call on the 2S/LGBTiQ+ community to rise in solidarity with workers and oppressed people across Canada, in the global south, and in all countries exploited by Canada’s elites. We call on the 2S/LGBTiQ+ community to reject rainbow capitalism, and rainbow imperialism, and the pinkwashing that justifies their wars and greed. Queer liberation is linked with the liberation of oppressed people who are struggling all over the world. We must say NO when the Canadian state pits us against Palestinians. We must say NO when the Canadian state sells weapons to Saudi Arabia to massacre Yemenis, then puts rainbows on the logos of its war machines. We completely reject vile arguments that Apartheid Israel is defending queer rights by murdering Palestinians — including queer Palestinians. Instead, we call for solidarity with our Queer comrades in Palestine.
True liberation comes with socialism and the abolition of exploitation. A better world for queer people is starting to rise. Socialist Cuba has overcome its own history of homophobia, with a remarkable transition to equality and social justice. Despite living under a blockade imposed by the U.S., Cuba has progressively protected queer rights, and since 2008, it has provided trans people with gender-affirming surgery, free of charge. Cuba’s medical internationalism has helped people around the world, with doctors sent to assist countries during disasters and emergencies. We call on 2S/LGBTiQ+ people to stand in solidarity with the people of all countries sanctioned and targetted by U.S. and Canadian imperialism.
Finally, we call on the queer community to reject the ongoing colonial and capitalist genocide against Indigenous people across Turtle Island (“North America”). The multiple discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools are stark reminders that Canada was built on the bones of its original inhabitants, and the attempted destruction of cultures that did not know homophobia and transphobia. Queer liberation means opposing the deliberate destruction of Indigenous nations, including denial of clean water, housing, education, and the ongoing theft of resources from the land.
The legacy of colonialism and capitalism continues today. In 2018 among Two-Spirit Indigenous adults in Toronto, 83% lived below poverty levels, 63% were unemployed, 33% had experienced homelessness, and only 48% had completed high school or postsecondary education.
The Communist Party calls to fully implement the TRC Calls to Action and the recommendations of the MMIWG, and to guarantee statutory funding to urgently address the economic and social crisis, systemic racism and the impacts of genocide facing Indigenous peoples.
Pride has always been more than a festival, Pride has always been political, and was born in protest and struggle for liberation. Since then we have marked many milestones on the road to freedom, but there is much more to do. None of us is free until all of us are free. There can be no Pride for some without the Liberation of all, and no Liberation without meeting our collective demands.
The Communist Party of Canada demands a comprehensive PEOPLE’S RECOVERY and calls on the government to:
- “Stop evictions, foreclosures and utility cut-offs due to unemployment, strike or lockout”.
- Build a comprehensive social housing program that treats housing as a public utility and delivers it according to need.
- Convert Canada’s $25 billion military budget to civilian spending for public healthcare, hospitals, beds, staff and equipment, medical research, testing for COVID-19, and for protection of workers’ jobs, wages and incomes, the sick, the elderly, and the poor.
- Take-over private, for-profit long-term care homes and expand the funding to allow for compassionate and humane standards of care for residents.
- End Canada’s consent to genocide in Palestine.
- Demand Biden reverse the illegal designation of Cuba as a terrorist state, lift the blockade.
- Take immediate action to recognize Indigenous sovereignty and for equality and justice, including emergency housing on reserves, and in Northern and isolated communities.
- Full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, gender expression, and the bodily integrity of intersex people.
- Employment equity legislation for Indigenous people, women, disabled people, racialized, and 2S/LGBTIQ people.
- Housing and shelters for homeless 2S/LGBTIQ youth, along with increased social assistance and action for full employment.
- Safe haven for refugees fleeing state-sponsored homo-, trans-, and biphobia.
- Strengthened enforcement and penalties for hate crimes, and a ban on hate groups.
- 2S/LGBTIQ-straight alliances in public schools and inclusive 2S/LGBTIQ-positive sex-ed curricula.
- Increased funding for anti-oppression and equity-seeking programs.
- Enforcement of trans rights.
- A federal ban on all forms of “conversion therapy”.
- End public funding for religious schools.
- Regulate social housing and care facilities to end elder abuse and the “re-closeting” of retired 2S/LGBTIQ workers.
- End two-tier age of consent laws for 2S/LGBTIQ youth.
- Remove the blood donation ban against gay men and trans women.