Last month, Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to publicly declare he is gay.
While it was a moment of personal triumph for him, his announcement was also cloaked in a history of pain and suffering because he had to hide who he was for so long. In the social media post where he came out he wrote: “Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for the last 15 years.”
Regardless of your own personal views on sexuality and gender, people should never have to feel ashamed of who they are. But in a world where people are quick to cast judgement, there are those who feel they must hide their true identity to protect themselves from insults and violence.
Sadly, this is often the reality for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Like all form of hate, homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia come from a place of fear. There are volumes of books written about the complexities of sexuality and gender identity. But you don’t need to read a single page, or listen to a single podcast to understand them. You just need to acknowledge that every human is unique and we all have different ways of expressing our love for ourselves and one another.
Just a few days before Nassib came out as gay, Rankin Inlet held its first ever Pride parade in support of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
The event was organized by Belinda Ugjuk and her sister Terri Nordman, neither of whom is part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Instead, they consider themselves allies.
By showing solidarity with a group of people who are often the target of hate and misunderstanding, the sisters demonstrated that one can be supportive of a community without having to be a part of it.
People who marched along with them are also helping pave the way for people to live true to themselves.
There are plenty of reasons why people try to justify their prejudice against LGBTQ2S+ individuals, but denying their existence has only caused immeasurable harm. That is why last month the House of Commons passed a bill banning the practice of conversion therapy, which seeks to turn members of the LGBTQ2S+ straight. The widely discredited practice, which the United Nations has equated to torture, can inflict severe pain and suffering. It has no scientific basis.
If that doesn’t convince you of the damage homophobia causes, then numbers should.
According to a 2008 study, LGBTQ2S+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Meanwhile, a 2020 study by the Trevor Project found that 40 per cent of LGBTQ2S+ youth had attempted suicide.
These statistics alone should be enough to make people realize that trying to make someone suppress their true identity comes at a heavy cost.
These troubling facts should also be taken into account when looking at how to address Nunavut’s mental health crisis.