While containing powerful messages, PSAs need to be speaking to both communities

“Stupid faggot.”

I swivelled to see who had uttered the phrase. A girl sitting at a back table in the Tim Hortons with her two friends snickered as we locked eyes.

What had I done wrong? All I wanted was a coffee.

It’s people like her that should be the target of anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia messages.

 However, it’s unlikely she’ll ever see a recent public service announcement on 

The lack of LGBT campaigns on mainstream television networks can hinder efforts to change public perception on LGBT bullying.

Photos courtesy of Youthlinethe subject produced by Youthline — an Ontario-based organization that offers resources and support for LGBT youth.

Why? Because it only airs on OUTtv, a Canadian network whose primary audience is the LGBT community.

The message

The Youthline campaign features words and phrases from a survey of over 200 Ontario youth asking the question, “What does homophobia and transphobia look like, sound like and feel like to you?”

Examples such as, “a shower that won’t warm up,” or, “quarantine,” and, “like never feeling safe,” appeared in the two-minute campaign, as well as other powerful phrases such as, “choosing between pieces of yourself,” and, “being disqualified from a race, before it even begins.”

According to Youthline outreach coordinator Bernice Chau, the goal of the anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia campaign is to, “create a resource for LGBT youth to use in terms of how they want to claim voice and how they want to educate people around them.”

But if the ad is intended to target the LGBT community, Jessica Willes of Pride Calgary suggested that campaigns need to make the community needs more, “inspired,” and “empowered.”

“There needs to be a broader public awareness campaign that is mainstream, so everybody can look at the damage that’s being done.”

– Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale CanadaBy contrast, if the ad is intended to educate people such as the girl I met in Tim Hortons, wouldn’t it be better if the campaign aired on a mainstream television network?

Chau admits that resources don’t currently exist at Youthline to bring the PSA to popular networks such as MuchMusic or MTV Canada. But she would like to see that happen so that LGBT youth voices can be heard, something that often only happens when there’s been an attack or a suicide.

Everyone’s responsibility

Helen Kennedy, executive director for Egale Canada agrees with Chau, saying, “There needs to be a broader public awareness campaign that is mainstream, so everybody can look at the damage that’s being done.”

While Kennedy acknowledges that there are pockets across the country that have made some progress, she persists that the mainstream simply isn’t doing enough to change public perception on LGBT issues.

“There needs to be a broader public awareness campaign that is mainstream, so everybody can look at the damage that’s being done.”

While society “really needs to step up and pay more attention,” as Kennedy says, the responsibility also lies with the LGBT community as well.

Chau recommends that LGBT youth also step up and take action by talking to teachers and showing campaigns to friends and community members to “educate in a bigger realm.”

Maybe that way, people like the girl in Tim Hortons will think twice before calling someone a “stupid faggot.”

cperrier@cjoural.ca