Thursday, 16 January 2014

Don't call this "offensive"

Originally printed in the online version of Bancroft This Week on Sept. 27, 2013

The issue at hand is not and has never been that the sign was "offensive". There are many offensive things out there, from people farting in line at the grocery store, to not holding a door open when one's hands are full, to calling someone an idiot for dousing their steak in ketchup. 

The issue with the sign and with other overt shows of homophobia and heterosupremacy is that it reminds queers that we are vulnerable to violence. It reminds us that there are people in the room who do not see us as human, and who could potentially be prepared to cause us bodily harm. It sends a panic through us that causes us to rethink every word and action we've taken since walking in the room - were we holding hands? Did I call my partner sweetie or baby? Did we reveal any information about where we live or work that could lead them to assault or harass us there? 

We then are in a mode of hyper-vigilance until we can safely exit - is that person getting up to use the bathroom or assault me? Is anyone eye-balling us and giving us aggressive stares? If we stay quiet can we hear their conversations to catch any hints they may be preparing to harm us? And as we leave, quickly and with smiles to make ourselves look benign and unthreatening, we wonder if anyone is going to follow us out, or follow us home, or take note of our vehicle make/ model/ and license plate so they can find us later and hurt us or vandalize our property.

Those thoughts and concerns have nothing to do with "offence". I would relish an offensive sign over those visceral reactions. One of the most frustrating things is that we cannot tell if the people who put up signs like that, or the people they surround themselves with, will ever commit violence against us. There is no surefire way for us to tell apart those who will silently judge us from the ones who are ready for a physical confrontation. The best we can do is try to get support from our community in the hopes that surrounding ourselves with people who love us and will stand up for us will be enough to deter an attack. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The argument is lop-sided

Originally printed in the online version of Bancroft This Week on Sept. 27, 2013

As the conversations keep going here and elsewhere in the world about homophobia, tolerance, and striking a balance between forcing either view on people, I can't help but notice that both sides are being treated as equal. On the face of it, you may say that it's simply a case of personal preference and that everyone is entitled to their opinions because that's what equality and democracy are about.

But that's under the assumption that both sides hold equal weight and consequence.

If both sides were truly equal, the conversations would be more along the lines of:
Adam and Eve Supporters: "Heterosexuals are better."
Adam and Steve Supporters: "No, homosexuals are better."

As it stands, that's not the argument. That's not the lines we're drawing in the sand. The teeter-totters don't have equal weight on both ends, because the conversations are to the effect of:
Adam and Steve Supporters: "We are human beings who are deserving of being treated with compassion and dignity and the protections of the law. We just want to raise our families and live our lives as our heterosexual counterparts are able to do. We don't want any special status, we just want the ability to enjoy all the privileges you are able to take for granted without considering what life would be like without them."
Adam and Eve Supporters: "No. You are not fully human and cannot walk down the street holding your partners hand or I will remind you of your lower status to keep you in check."

That is not an equally weighted argument. Both sides are not benign. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Get over it

Originally printed in the online version of Bancroft This Week on Sept. 15, 2013

I've been hearing and seeing those comments a lot as of late.

"Get over it. Stop talking about it. Why are you flogging a dead horse? Just move on already."

And I agree. Get over your discomfort of having some of the ugly bigotry of your town being brought to light. Stop talking about your feelings of annoyance, because your annoyance is fleeting and not worth you raising your blood pressure over. Stop flogging the dead horse of how "great" and "progressive" this town is; if it's as great as what you say then it can easily withstand a brush with constructive criticism. Just move on already, and get past your hang-ups over addressing and dealing with problems out in the open.

When I see someone post a comment saying, "It's not that big of a deal! Just get over it!" I have to wonder what their investment is in shutting down the conversation. It's big enough of a deal for you to tell people to shut up. If it weren't that big of a deal, then you'd have no interest in the result either way and the topic itself wouldn't bother you.

If the now-infamous clipping weren't a big deal, why did it stay up for a decade? If it weren't a big deal, why wasn't it removed with a shrug and replaced with a Garfield comic? If it weren't a big deal, why would anyone stand up for the restaurant owners' decision to post it and keep it up? If it weren't a big deal, why are you still reading and getting mad at me stating it's not a big deal?

It's because we understand these represent much bigger discussions and issues. It's because we know that ink on paper is not the point; it's the message underneath it that has weight and that matters and that actually affects people and their morality and their lives.

If we're honest with ourselves and each other, it's because the LGBT community still has battles to fight to be seen as equals and allowed to be visible in their home communities. That's not just a Bancroft problem; it's an everywhere problem. We just happen to be having the conversation here, where we live. Get over it.