Last Friday night, I had the privilege of attending the opening of the Art Gallery of Burlington’s newest exhibit: The Gender Conspiracy.
The Gender Conspiracy is an open letter to the trans and gender-diverse communities in our area to express allyship in furthering the discourse on gender fluidity and identity, sexual orientation, same-sex relationships, and consent to promote the mental health and safety of all LGBTQI2S+ communities. LGBTQI2S+ is an abbreviation used to represent a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirit, gender and sexual minorities, and allies.
I’m really proud to have an exhibit like this in our city as we continue to build a community that is diverse, respectful, open and inclusive to every person who lives here and who visits us. I think it’s one of the reasons we can be proud to call ourselves the “Best Community in Canada” as Maclean’s magazine recently declared.
This exhibit is also the first solo exhibition for the AGB’s new Senior Curator, Suzanne Carte, and I want to congratulate her for the immense creativity, timeliness and boldness in her choice of subject matter.
I was amazed by the art and performances I saw, alternating between thought-provoking and moving to totally entertaining and light-hearted. I applaud the many talented artists and performers who have contributed to this exhibit and last week’s opening festivities in so many meaningful, personal and imaginative ways.
I also want to thank the generous sponsors, community partners, and gender-inclusion consultants who have helped support this exhibition and created a safe space for this important work to be shown.
I saw people of all ages and backgrounds, and families with children, enjoying and learning from this exhibit and it made me very proud of our creative visionaries like Suzanne, and art lovers in attendance from Burlington and beyond.
Exhibitions like this demonstrate our city’s allyship to LGBTQI2S+ communities and our desire to learn more about the issues they face today in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). We know there are ongoing struggles with acceptance, violence, and discrimination, and it is up to each of us to help protect our fellow citizens’ rights and freedoms whether we are in public office or otherwise.
I walked away having learned a lot and I am grateful for the ways in which it will empower me with more knowledge and understanding of how I can contribute in my role as Mayor and as a fellow citizen in our city.
This exhibit is well-timed with another initiative our city is exploring to demonstrate our desire to be inclusive: Rainbow Crosswalks. The installation of rainbow-coloured crosswalks painted at controlled intersections is one way numerous municipalities are showing their support for the LGTBQ2IS+ communities. Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns and Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith brought a joint motion to council earlier this week, explaining this is an important public statement of welcome and inclusion that can be available year-round in our City. I’m thrilled that our Planning and Development Committee unanimously carried the motion to do so on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The item goes to Council on Sept. 23 where I fully expect unanimous approval.
The fact the discussion around Rainbow Crosswalks took place on Sept. 10 is fitting as it is also the same day during the Second World War, in 1939, that Canada declared war against Nazi Germany who was, at the time, persecuting those whose sexuality didn’t conform to expected societal norms — forcing them to wear a pink triangle (sewn onto their clothes to publicly display their orientation) in concentration camps so they could be easily identifiable and targeted, as well as in an effort to shame them. The symbol has since been reclaimed and embraced by the gay community as a symbol of pride. We continue the legacy of freedom and inclusion for all residents that our troops fought for with our Rainbow Crossings.
The first of our Rainbow Crosswalks is expected to be installed in spring of 2020. Staff and Councillor Galbraith will be in discussions with the community to determine the best locations for our Rainbow Crosswalks.
The Gender Conspiracy is at the Art Gallery of Burlington through the end of the year.