SIMCOE, MAY 9, 2013- While homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada in 1969, those in the gay and lesbian communities still face a significant amount of discrimination.
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is reminding area citizens that homophobia, expressed as negative feelings or attitudes towards those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) is a form of discrimination just like any other form of discrimination.
“Even today, we continue to see hate crimes committed and young people bullied because of their sexual orientation,” said Terri Hartwick, public health nurse with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Sexual Health Program. “We have a long way to go in ensuring everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
Research has revealed that almost 40 per cent of students who identify as GLBT have experienced some form of physical harassment, such as being punched, pushed or spat on. Students harassed based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation are also more than three times as likely to make a suicide attempt as students who are not harassed.
“Whether the homophobia is subtle or obvious, in-person or online, this discrimination can cause serious harm to a person’s physical, mental, social and emotional well-being,” added Hartwick.
May 17 of each year has been designated as International Day against Homophobia, a day celebrated by close to 100 countries, including Canada. The date was selected to commemorate May 17, 1990, the day on which World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
The theme of this year’s campaign is Fight the Homophobia Web Virus, and aims to educate people about the damages caused by cyberhomophobia, the spreading of negative attitudes towards homosexuality online and through social media.
Cyberhomophobia often presents GLBT persons as inferior or abnormal and can be expressed in the form of jokes, teasing, hateful remarks, and stereotyping. The anonymity of the internet facilitates the spread of abusive comments and cyberhomophobia that could have serious consequences.
Foundation Emergence, the organization spearheading the campaign, is offering free posters, pamphlets, ads and graphics that can be shared online through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to encourage people to stand up to those expressing cyberhomophobia.
Additional information and campaign materials can be accessed at homophobiaday.org. Individuals seeking information or support for issues related to sexual orientation are encouraged to call the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit or visit www.hnhu.org.
Public health nurse, Sexual Health Program
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
905.318.5367 ext. 346