(From the local Montreal Gazette newspaper, Sept. 13th:)
The number of same-sex couples living in common-law relationships surged by 32 per cent between 2001 and 2006, five times the rate for opposite-sex couples, according to figures made public by Statistics Canada yesterday.
It wasn’t, however, something in the water that convinced gays and lesbians en masse to suddenly take the next big step and decide to move in together. “I don’t think the actual rate is up at all,” said Mona Greenbaum, co-ordinator of the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec. “It’s just the rate of people discussing their couple status is up. … With the progressive laws that we have in Canada, people are feeling more confident about declaring their sexual orientation to the government, about coming out of the closet.”
In the past, same-sex couples would have been more hesitant to divulge their status, even on a confidential survey, for fear of repercussions, Greenbaum said. “What if my boss finds out, what experience will my kid have at school, what about the family, my extended family, could I lose custody of my children from an earlier marriage, all these fears are out there,” she said.
The anxiety lessened as Quebec and Canada began granting greater rights to same-sex couples, culminating with Ottawa’s legalization of gay marriage in July 2005, which in turn spurred greater social acceptance.
In all, the 2006 census counted 45,345 same-sex couples in Canada. A total of 7,465 said they were in same-sex marriages. The same-sex couples represented 0.6 per cent of all couples in Canada, numbers comparable to Australia and New Zealand. Even with the advances, however, Greenbaum estimates the actual numbers of same-sex couples, and marriages, are much higher. “It depends very much on how you phrase the question,” Greenbaum said. “Some people will not refer to themselves as gay, even if they’ve been in a monogamous same-sex relationship for 30 years.”
Homophobia in society, even among gay people, will stop many from noting their staus, said Monica Perazzo, the mother of 5-month-old Isabella, along with her partner, Gabriel Pinkstone. “Even among some people that are gay, there’s such a fear that they live inside of them of homophobia, they won’t even admit it to themselves,” she said. “So to say that they are is gay to Canada, they won’t do it.”
Perrazo and Pinkstone are married, a rarity among same-sex Montrealers on the census, of whom only 10 per cent tied the knot. (In Toronto, the number is 25 per cent). It was a romantic decision, she said, but it also gives them a sense of security when they’re out in the rest of the world. Pinkstone is from Australia. Other than a couple of double-takes on the street when she and her partner are out for a walk with Isabella in their progressive borough of Plateau Mont Royal, she has had little reaction thus far, but worries for the day her child will be in school and teased because she has two mothers.
Society has progressed, but the debate about reasonable accommodation has shown that among the masses, there’s still a road ahead. “Not everybody changes at the same rhythm. It’s a good start,” she said of yesterday’s stats, “but I think the numbers will keep coming up.”