A newly minted LGBTQ2 coin recognizing the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada has drawn a mixed response.
The Royal Canadian Mint, with support from the Liberal government, unveiled the commemorative loonie, Tuesday, saying the new $1 coin was a tribute to parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”
Critics, such as the NDP, have taken umbrage at the word “equality” etched on one side, saying it does not represent true equality, as members of the gay community suffered for decades after this date. They also suggest the 1969 date it commemorates has little or nothing to do with equality for members of the full LGBTQ2+ movement.
“The new loonie that bears the slogan ‘equality’ would be more accurate if it said ‘50 years of fighting for equality,’” says Randall Garrison, NDP MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.
In the years after 1969, gay men still faced criminal charges under the reformed sections of the criminal code, and faced a different age of consent to their straight peers. Some critics unhappy with the 1969 date have offered alternatives, some falling as recently as the 1990s or 2000s.
However, supporters of the coin point to the great strides made in LGBTQ2+ rights, such as gay marriage and a sloping reduction in stigma over the last 50 years.
Leading Vancouver LGBTQ2+ group Qmunity’s Executive Director Osmel Guerra Maynes, acknowledges that while to many the coin is a valuable symbol, the quest for full LGBTQ2+ rights continues.
“For me, this coin itself is more to spread awareness and it’s great that it does that, but I think the underlying issue is something bigger. Different folks have different ways of seeing it, whether it is 1969 or any other year, but from the lens I am seeing it through, we don’t have equality, as being part of the queer community, here in Canada. Not everyone has that equality and inclusiveness.”
Guerra Maynes cites some politicians’ admiration for regressive policies in the United States, transphobic speech in B.C. and Ontario’s insistence on following a controversial sex education curriculum as examples of an unequal social climate.
Perhaps as the growing acronym of LGBTQ2+ suggests, there are different viewpoints and experiences within the queer community, and the perception of the community’s needs has changed since 1969. Some gay activists are keen that dates don’t signify a completion of the gay-rights struggle, but the social movement is seen more fluidly.
Guerra Maynes says that although a community, members come from different “intersectionalities.” He is keen for issues within the community to be explored and resolved, such as the experience of Trans or queer people of colour, and for the LGBTQ2+ movement to advance beyond their hard-won rights, such as gay marriage.
“I would never take away the idea of what this coin means to others but at the same time I want folks to understand that as well as celebrating this coin, we need to celebrate each other,” he says.