How important are allies to the LGBTQ+ community?

Kelly Masterson

A public service employee in Ottawa, Ontario. Kelly identifies as a gay man.

What does the acronym 2SLGBTQ+ mean to you

As a gay man, I identify as the G in the acronym. Long before I joined the RCMP, I had a government job but I left it in 1992 and joined Canada's fight against AIDS. For seven years, I worked for a charity, an association of Canadian AIDS service organizations. It made me a life-long advocate for marginalized and disabled people.

As an RCMP employee, what's been your experience as a member of the gender diverse community

When I applied to the RCMP in 1999, I was expecting a para-military, command and control atmosphere. In those days, homophobia was more rampant than it is today. I didn't hide anything, but I wasn't sure I'd even pass the security clearance because of my sexual orientation. I was pleasantly surprised when I did. I've always respected the RCMP. I have family members who've been regular members and I respect the organization as a Canadian icon. The group I began working with, and continue to work with today, are very respectful and professional. I landed in a great place and I've never looked back. I believe in the RCMP's mandate. I know we have a rough time in the press, but ours is a large and complicated organization, and I'm still very proud to work here.

To the best of my knowledge, I've never been a victim of discrimination at work because of my sexual orientation. However, it is important to note that I do live and work in a privileged community here in Ottawa, and that I have the support of my family and friends. I think this has probably helped to insulate me from such discrimination. I have plenty of gay and lesbian friends, some of whom have now passed away, who have never known the strength one gains from a caring and supportive family. Sadly, I know that homophobia and heterosexism is still very much alive in parts of Canadian society, and that people fall victim to these types of discrimination every day.

In general, I find that many people aren't comfortable talking about human sexuality at work, but I'm seeing a healthy evolution happening now where people want to be more fully themselves at work. When I came out in the 1980s, I would have never mentioned at work that I was living and sleeping with another man, but times have changed for the better. It's healthy for people to feel they don't have to hide who they love. If we could all just speak freely about the people we care about, the world would be a better place.

What's the importance of allyship

Allies help those of us who are seeking justice and freedom. If only the marginalized speak out, then the road to justice is longer than it should be. When members of the majority speak out against inequality, it accelerates the rate of change. Marginalized and persecuted communities need allies to help us fight stereotypes and misconceptions.

Do you think it's important for the RCMP to provide education and awareness about the 2SLGBTQ+ community

Yes, it's very important. The RCMP now offers employees a 2SLGBTQ+ awareness course. It has lots of information for people who might not feel comfortable interacting with people who identify as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It offers help with language, identity, cultural norms and social activities, which are all fundamental to understanding our community. There are plenty of taboo topics and stereotypes that can make people feel awkward or uncomfortable. I think courses like this give RCMP officers a better understanding of the communities they serve. Highlighting and explaining the history and cultural differences of 2SLGBTQ+ communities goes a long way towards improving behaviours and creating a supportive work environment. There's a lot of unique historical baggage that goes with sexual orientation and gender identity. Someone may be highly aware of cultural differences, but they might not be comfortable talking to gay people. Awareness training can help dispel myths and stereotypes, which helps police officers to build trust and understanding with the communities they serve. If we want RCMP members to reflect Canada's diversity, it helps if we can understand the cultural history that explains why some Canadians don't trust the police. The RCMP also has an employee guide to supporting transgendered, non-binary and two spirited people. As a gay person, I know my own identity but I certainly don't claim to understand everyone else's perspective. I found the guide educational, objective and unbiased. It's ground-breaking, exemplary work and I think the RCMP should be proud of it.

Tessa Duc

A public service employee in Ottawa, Ontario, she identifies as bisexual.

What's the importance of allyship

Allies are essential. Anyone, regardless of who they love or how they identify, can help support the 2SLGBTQ+ community. I'd like people who aren't part of the community to listen to others' experiences and perspectives with an open mind, to be active listeners, to ask questions that are appropriate and respectful and, in the face of learning new things, to not be afraid of making mistakes. If you use the wrong pronoun, just apologize, correct yourself, move on and try to do better. We need allies to help us break through equality barriers.

Do you think it's important for the RCMP to provide education and awareness about the LGBTQ2 community

One hundred percent, we need to educate ourselves. Before I started working for the RCMP, I took a few Government of Canada webinars about the 2SLGBTQ+ community that I found informative. I just finished the RCMP's 2SLGBTQ+ awareness course and I thought it was really well put together. It has a lot of information for people who are just starting to learn about the 2SLGBTQ+ community and who'd like to know more about specific terms and individual experiences. I think the RCMP should try to identify biases among its employees so we can address them head on. The 2SLGBTQ+ community is a significant population. Police officers should be equipped with the right information so they can have positive interactions with all of the communities they serve. Within our organization, we should have more learning opportunities, more training sessions and especially more conversations on this topic.

What does the acronym LGBTQ2 mean to you

I'm relatively new to identifying myself within the 2SLGBTQ+ community, so I've been learning a lot about it. When I use the acronym, I include "2S" at the beginning as opposed to the end to honour the Two Spirited Indigenous people who lived on this land before European settlers arrived. I think of the acronym as an umbrella term that represents a lot of different identities and orientations. It's a great start to understanding diversity, but we should remember that every letter in the acronym has diversity within it. Language evolves, so the acronym is a work in progress, one that expresses many things. I think it represents communities of people who are similar because of their experiences, attractions and perspectives, but also different from each other. It represents a deep history that has many layers. As I said, I'm new to the community, so for me, the acronym represents pride. I'm proud to relate to this community and to hear their stories – I want to yell it happily to the world because it's exciting to me. The acronym represents people from outside of the community appreciating what love and life are like for people within the community. Finally, to me, it's a symbol of acceptance and understanding among the diverse members of our community.

As an RCMP employee, what's been your experience as a member of the gender diverse community

I've been with the RCMP for a little more than two years, so my experience of being out here is relatively new. I've definitely found pockets of positivity within the RCMP and I've chatted with a lot of other members of the community. While there are accepting sections, I think acceptance still has to spread throughout the organization. Initiatives like this are a good start – celebrating individual stories, identities and experiences. We should do more of this kind of thing so we can learn about our colleagues. Raising the Pride flag at RCMP buildings and promoting 2SLGBTQ+ initiatives on our social media accounts are also positive steps.

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