It was not that long ago that homophobia gained its rightful place among research topics at francophone universities in Québec. “It goes back to the early 2000s,” remarks Line Chamberland, a researcher in UQAM’s Department of Sexology and holder of the Research Chair on Homophobia.
“At that time, debates on issues such as civil union, same-sex parenting and discrimination in the workplace were shaking up Québec society,” she recalls. There was a need to document these issues empirically. For example, research showed that that children raised by homosexual couples, composed of two men or two women, developed just as harmoniously as other children and did not necessarily become homosexual themselves.”
The need for data
Since the early 2000s, Line Chamberland has been closely examining the exclusion/inclusion dynamic of LGBT people. Her research has included studies on the situation of lesbian women in seniors’ homes and the discrimination suffered by LGBT people at school and at work.
“There was very little empirical data on workplace discrimination against LGBT people or on the prevalence of prejudice related to sexual orientation and gender in different work settings in Québec,” notes the researcher.
A turning point came in 2005-2007 with the work of the Groupe de travail mixte contre l’homophobie, to which she actively contributed along with her colleague Bill Ryan, a professor of Social Work at McGill University. Legal equality between heterosexuals and homosexuals was finally recognized, but discrimination persisted. Researchers, community groups and the government then became aware of the benefits of working together to better understand these dynamics.
For example, community groups report on what they see on the ground, while researchers propose studies to document empirically certain forms of discrimination faced by LGBT people in Québec. All of this information serves to determine potential solutions that will be most successful in promoting inclusion.
Today the data generated by research is still used both by LGBT groups to support their claims and by the government to guide its interventions and the adoption of new bills.
The data produced by Chamberland’s research on homophobia at school, for example, convinced the government to include bullying motivated by sexual orientation in its bill, An Act to prevent and stop bullying and violence in schools. Her findings have also been used to educate schools about the need to adapt certain help services provided to students.
Line Chamberland’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. She was awarded the Conseil québécois LGBT Prix Honoris in 2013 and the Chambre de commerce gaie du Québec Prix Phenica in 2012. Her hope is that openness towards sexual diversity will continue to grow in Québec, because discrimination against transgender people, in particular, is still very strong.