Unity Statement – Women’s March on Washington (Yellowknife)

On January 21st 2017 at 11:00am, people marched in Yellowknife to stand in solidarity with women in the United States experiencing marginalization and violence.

We spoke during this march. Our statement was created in part by individuals who attended our Q&T Group on Thursday, January 19th 2017. Here is our full statement for you to read.

Women all over the world are marching today, in solidarity with marginalized communities in the United States of America. Although the Women’s March on Washington has one unity statement that expresses support of queer and trans people, we want to stress that all of these unity statements ring true in our hearts. We want to express that we disagree with the Official Women’s March Movement’s initial choice to remove references to sex worker rights or conflate sex working with sex trafficking and exploitation, and we want to express our understanding of the complex problems associated with the original co-opting of a movement created by women of colour in the United States.

As a queer and trans organization, we work to support a group of people who are too-often victims of violence and marginalization. Although we work to support queer and trans people in Yellowknife, the struggles of queer and trans people in the United States are often at the forefront of our conversations and advocacy.

The Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife is an organization, governed by young queer and trans Yellowknifers, whose mandate is to support queer and trans people (particularly youth) in Yellowknife and the rest of the Northwest Territories to live free from queerphobic violence. This statement was written with input from people who are a part of our organization.

Queer and trans people experience all kinds of violence because of who we are as human-beings. Queer communities experience physical violence, emotional violence, sexual violence and state violence. Within our community itself, queer people who share other marginalized identities are forced to navigate compounded violence. We see Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer and trans people resisting against the colonialist violence that limits how they are able to express themselves. We see queer and trans people of colour rejected from mainstream queer communities because they refuse to accept ongoing violence that is ignored by white queer people. We see queer and trans people with disabilities lacking adequate and supportive care and being rid of their sexual autonomies. We see queer and trans people living in poverty having to choose between accessing necessary social supports and living authentically. The needs of queer and trans people are not homogenous; we have a variety of lived experiences and they all need to be valued, respected and validated.

We, the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife, want to express our gratitude and love for those people who came before us, and contributed to what we recognize as a safer space for queer and trans people today. We say thank you to George Everett Klippert, a man who lived in the Northwest Territories when he became the last Canadian to be charged with homosexuality under the Supreme Court. We say thank you to those pioneers involved with OutNorth who’s existence helped to pass necessary legislation like the right to adopt and the inclusion of gender identity under the NWT Human Rights Act. The work done by past LGBTQ+ people in Yellowknife and the NWT allows us to feel comforted and validated in our existence as queer and trans people.

It also helps us be optimistic for the future. We call for more community and financial involvement from municipal and territorial governments. We call for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ perspectives on all topics, from anti-homelessness to anti-violence to many others. We call for more proactive support by unions, and NWT employers in supporting LGBTQ+ staff members and employees. We call for more inclusion of queer identities and issues into Yellowknife and NWT schools. We call for more public conversation about queer and trans people and experiences, particularly those experiences of Two-Spirit and Indigenous queer people that have been affected so strongly by the ongoing colonization that takes place in Denendeh.

We invite those who are not queer or trans, but who love us with all of their hearts, to learn how to be uncomfortable with not knowing, or not always understanding. We ask that our diversity is recognized; that we are not only queer, but that some of us are women, some of us are Indigenous, some of us are disabled, some of us are people of colour, some of us are living in poverty.

We welcome allies to step up to support us, even when it’s hard, and even when there is pushback, even when they are uncomfortable. We welcome allies to ask the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife for help in learning how to make their community safer for queer and trans people.

We call for a safe community that is built with us; that allies let us lead and that allies remember that there is nothing for us, without us.*

*The phrase “nothing for us, without us” has its’ roots in disability activism. The phrase gained momentum in the 1990s, and has since been used by various movements to express the importance of including the voices of those who are affected by an issue when doing activism related to the issue. (Source)