LGBTQ2 first-time voters on why they’re casting their ballots

Five millennials talk about their hopes, fears, concerns—and the political issues that matter to them

For the first time in election history, millennials are the largest voting bloc in Canada, and this month marks the first time many of them will be voting. For LGBTQ2 millennial voters—of whom there are a lot—there are plenty of issues to be concerned about: Past same-sex marriage debates continue to be tossed around by leaders as vote bait, the blood ban for men who have sex with men remains intact and conversion therapy has become a hot-button issue for all parties. Add to that stresses around climate change, student debt and housing affordability, there’s a lot riding on this election campaign for young queer and trans voters.

Are our politicians doing a good job of ensuring that the futures of LGBTQ2 millennials are safe?

We asked five first-time voters to share their views.

J.J. Viviers

Toronto, Ont.

Why is voting important to you as a queer person?

I’m from South Africa. This will be my first election in Canada. Back home, I wouldn’t say I was very politically active, but I voted in every election.

Voting in Canada means I get to add my support to who I believe in and whose values I believe align with mine. If the party doesn’t have some fundamental principle that supports my rights or improve the rights that I have, I would not be able to align with it.

What would you like to see politicians talk more about?

Transgender rights, in every aspect. I want them to set the example at a federal level for providing gender-neutral facilities in federal buildings, and better access to gender-affirming healthcare.

How familiar are you with the parties’ platforms?

I’m brushing up on them and reading summaries where I can. I’ve completed a survey that checks your peace of mind with the different parties, which was pretty helpful. I learned that my principles align best with that of the Green Party, but I’m still a fan of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. The video of Jagmeet advocating for clean water for Indigenous communities and how serious the situation is really stuck with me.

I’m excited to see that it’s a tight race and we may not have a majority government. To me, that means we would have a more democratic government.


Kelli Burns

Vancouver, B.C.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I’m excited. I’m confident that the youth vote will have a turnout equal to, or greater than, [the 2015 election, in which more than 58 percent of newly eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots]. Politics are a hot topic among people my age, and while many I know are progressive, I can’t confidently say who they’ll vote for, or which parties their views align with the most. Either way, there’s been a lot of buzz about the upcoming election in my social circles.

What would you like to see politicians talk more about?

The climate. I know that’s a generic answer, but it’s one of the things on everyone’s mind right now—especially young people. I wish there was more emphasis on Indigenous voices and their input on how Canada can combat climate change, as they are the original stewards of the land and numerous Indigenous groups across the country already strive to preserve what’s left. I’d like to see politicians centring Indigenous organizations in their climate action plans while honouring their traditions. Honestly, I think Indigenous voices should be involved at every level of government, but especially when it comes to the environment.

I’d also like to hear more about social justice issues. I’d love to see political leaders prioritize Indigenous issues, such as lack of clean drinking water on First Nation reserves. It’s incredibly disappointing that only one leader has said anything about the water situation on many reserves, which tells me that the livelihoods of these Indigenous groups aren’t a priority to other candidates.

I’m not somebody who follows the economy very closely. I don’t know about job creation, or how the government manages money, honestly. But social justice issues always follow us no matter what our biggest priority is, because they affect how everyone is treated.

Why is voting important to you as a queer person?

Because of who I am—a mixed, bi, disabled woman—I’m always seeing things through an intersectional lens. I’ve been out for years now, so since I’ve started thinking and talking about politics, [my identity] has always been at the forefront. It’s part of how it orient myself in politics.

Representation has always mattered a great deal to me, so voting for someone whose values align with mine is a great opportunity for my voice to be heard.

I vote in order to increase representation for those like me, and encourage others to do the same. A lot of that overlaps with my race and with my disability and how I’m viewed by others. It all just comes down to a lot of empathy and a lot of concern for others.

Thio Tang

Toronto, Ont.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I feel excited because my voice is finally being heard, and my opinion finally matters to the government. But it’s also complicated, especially with the whole idea of strategic voting and being scared that all of the big, dreamy ideas that political parties sell won’t be upheld.

What would you like to see politicians talk more about?

Even with climate change, carbon emissions are rising every single year and [politicians] never ever talk about it. Or when they do, it’s very vague, and they don’t follow up on their promises. But it’s something that’s going to disproportionately affect not just Canadians, but people all over the world, and especially people who are more marginalized. So in those terms, our vote also matters on a global scale.

I’d also like to see what leaders’ plans are for incorporating more diversity and normalizing queer people and their relationships into the social system, schools and workforces, and how they plan to really make Canada safe for people of all kinds.

Sarafina Deatemaa

Bowmanville, Ont.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

It’s really overwhelming. I’m scared that the person I vote for won’t win and I’ll have gotten my hopes up. This is really important for me as a queer person, because there are a lot of LGBTQ2 issues that need to be resolved. I am also a queer person with a disability, so I am hoping that there will be resources for people with disabilities, too.

How familiar are you with the parties’ platforms?

At first I wasn’t that familiar. But lately, I have been doing a lot of comparisons of each party. I went through debates and stats, and wrote down what each party had to say. The ones that were more positive or that stuck out to me in a positive way would be the party that I support. It isn’t that I’m worried, it’s more so that I’m unprepared.

Twysted Miyake-Mugler

Toronto, Ont.

How do you feel about voting for the first time?

I’m feeling a sense of urgency. I feel like I have to at least try to get politically involved. I’ve started seeing things in a whole different light. There’s really no other way to get at these people, besides the law. I’m just giving it a try this time. I feel like desperate times call for desperate measures, and the worst that can happen is a loss at the polls.

I feel obliged. That’s the best word for me to use. It’s necessary. I’ve been talking to a lot of refugees and folks going through the refugee claimant process, and it’s so funny when I say to them that I haven’t voted yet. A lot of them are like, “Really, you’ve never voted before?” No, I’ve never really seen the need to. So I’m trying to represent my people and the people that I know are definitely affected by these changes.

What would you like to see politicians talk more about?

I would like to see them talk more about gun violence. That is one thing that, even though they are talking a lot about it now, I really need them to prioritize—because we are seeing what gun violence is doing to Black people and young people. It needs to be prioritized.

What more can be done to represent queer people in politics?

Just having more queer people in politics, that’s one thing. Provincially, it’s so nice to see Jill Andrew, the NDP MPP of the St. Paul’s riding, run. She’s very, very involved in the Toronto community, and seeing her in politics speaking and fight for the things we talk about in our community…it just makes politics seem so much more real. We’ve never been really in close proximity to people who are involved in politics, or people who are like us in politics.

Ashleigh-Rae Thomas

Ashleigh-Rae Thomas is a queer Jamaican writer, activist and self-proclaimed nerd.

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Politics, Power, Analysis

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