The counterculture is always repackaged and made into a product. It’s part of America. — Jim Jarmusch

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The history of the gay rights movement in the United States is fascinating. Is it a civil rights movement or is it a social justice movement? Is gay a demographic or is gay a community? Are gay rights the drive for civil rights, that gay people be at liberty, as individuals, to participate in society, openly, and free from persecution? Is it a social justice movement, the gay community driven by a countercultural constituency, intent on separating itself from mainstream culture? The answer to these questions is the gay rights movement in the United States is a combination of the two perspectives. To date, the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States are laudable. The repeal of laws that criminalized homosexual sex is a significant gain. Gay people live openly and are free to marry. True, elements of anti-gay prejudice linger, mainly from the ranks of the religious and socially conservative; moreover, there is only a patchwork of laws in place across the 50 states that prohibit discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, I think these are the least of the worries for the gay rights movement in the United States. While both perspectives, civil rights and social justice, contributed to the success of the gay rights movement; what most concerns me about the current state of the gay rights movement in the United States is the influence of a decidedly countercultural constituency of U.S. society on the gay rights movement. In my opinion, this only undermines the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States and hinders its progress as a civil rights movement. Continue reading

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Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. — Maya Angelou

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Prejudice is defined as “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge.” (Cambridge Dictionary) I experience prejudice as both a gay man and gun owner. You may be familiar with the crude caricature of a gay man: that of a limp-wristed, effeminate man who speaks with a lisp and has an incessant compulsion for sex. You may also be acquainted with the cartoonish stereotype of gun owners as lower class white men who are uncouth and certain to tell you the only way you will take his gun from him is “from my cold, dead hands.” Certainly, these are the extreme ends of these particular prejudices. There are occasions in my life when people directed anti-gay slurs at me and to a lesser extent snide remarks about my supposed lack of virility and questionable mental health for being a gun owner. Still, the prejudice I face as a gay man and gun owner that really concerns me is far more indistinct than loutish people who call me “queer” or “gun nut” because they just do not know any better. Continue reading

Is she coming too? — Frances Hammerstrom

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Jason and Fran, husband and wife, on their way to their deer stands, November 2015.

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Sgt. Tatyana Danylyshyn of the Canadian Scottish Regiment and champion marksman.

I have a lifelong passion for hunting and shooting. From my early childhood I remember my father and my uncle John going hunting in the Fall seasons. My dad really enjoyed hunting cottontail rabbits and European hares, commonly called Jack rabbits, outside Kingston in the mid-1960s. I yearned for the day when I would be old enough to join them. As I grew older and entered my formative years, I remember poring over the hunting magazines, such as Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Field and Stream, my father amassed over the years. I combed these magazines for articles on upland bird hunting and waterfowling, mostly. I was eager to learn all I could about these pastimes so I could apply this knowledge when I came of age. I got my first hunting license at 15 and never looked back. When I entered my 20s I took up collecting books on guns, hunting, gun dog training and wildlife conservation. Currently, I have a growing collection of books that detail the  North American hunting and shooting culture of the 19th and 20th centuries that guided me in my development as a hunter. I take great pride in my heritage as a gun owner and hunter. I keep these books, hoping they will help preserve a record of my gun and hunting heritage for posterity. In fact, I often point to this heritage in standing up for the rights of gun owners and hunters when gun ownership and hunting come under attack from critics who denounce these activities as archaic, old fashioned and out of step with the times.

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Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony. — Heraclitus

maxresdefaulteris__goddess_of_strife__discord_and_chaos__smite__by_mitchumhody-d8ky9dqGrowing up I really enjoyed reading books of fairy tales, folklore, legends and myths. I especially enjoyed the books of ancient Greek myths I found at school. These were adaptations of the stories suitable for children, not the original texts in translation, of course. Of these stories, the one featuring Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, and the apple of discord was a favourite. In short, in the story the apple of discord is a golden apple with the inscription “for the fairest” the goddess Eris threw among the gods. Just who among the gods was fairest was open to question and led to disagreement between the goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite over who among them was the fairest. What started as petty bickering between the three goddesses over this question ultimately brought about the Trojan War. The moral of the story as Timothy and Susan B. Gall note in The Lincoln library of Greek & Roman mythology refers to “the core, kernel, or crux of an argument, or a small matter that could lead to a bigger dispute.” (as cited in Wikipedia) What made me think of this story in the present is the discord generated by Motion 103 Systemic racism and religious discrimination, introduced in parliament on December 5, 2016 by the backbench Liberal MP from Mississauga Iqra Khalid and passed on March 23, 2017. Continue reading

The poet’s expression of joy conceals his despair at not having found the reality of joy. — Max Jacob

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When the news broke on July 20, 2017, of the death by suicide of Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park, my immediate thought was “surely this is another hoax, like the bogus announcements over the internet of the deaths of Clint Eastwood and William H. Macy.” Sadly, it is true. Chester Bennington took his own life at the age of forty-one. This came as a horrible shock to his family, friends, band mates and millions of adoring fans. He was in the prime of his life, at the top of his game as a professional performer and in between tours with his band in promoting their new album One More Light. It seemed he had everything to live for, yet he decided to end his life. This is, undoubtedly, hard for many to understand and who are left wondering why. I can only surmise that in spite of the fame and success he enjoyed in life, despair got the better of him and he decided he could not go on living. Despair is part of being human and how human beings cope with it or not varies according the individual. Continue reading

I think gay men are more masculine than straight men. Because, guess what? They love other men! — Sir Ian McKellen

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I came across an article featuring an interview with Angela Davis Fegan, an artist and LGBTQ activist, in which Fegan condemned the gay rights movement for what she views as its domination by white, straight-acting gay men. She cited the movement for same sex marriage rights with its prescient concern for the legal and financial status of same sex couples to illustrate her complaint, asserting, “the push for marriage was largely about granting real estate and tax benefit rights to straight-acting, white, gay men.” (as cited in POPSUGAR) I am a masculine, white, gay man and view the gay rights movement and the legalization of same-sex marriage in particular as a good thing for all people who experience same-sex attraction and same-sex couples regardless of their sex, race or ethnicity. Fegan is not alone in her condemnation of the gay rights movement for the alleged domination by “white, straight-acting gay men.” Amrou Al-Kadhi, a gay drag performer, is critical of “the glorification of Olympic Poster boy Tom Daley and Academy Award winner Dustin Lance’s relationship. Whilst it is a sign of progress that a gay relationship is celebrated nation wide, it is done in a manner that is “digestible” for a PG audience — a straight-acting Disney-fied gay couple (both attractive, white, masculine), giving gay men a pretty unobtainable ideal of success.” (as cited in i-D Magazine) This made me think about why I took up with the gay rights movement as a masculine, white, gay man beginning in 1989. Continue reading

If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things? — Antonin Scalia

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There are disturbing reports cropping up on various news sites concerning a pogrom against gay men in Chechnya carried out under the auspices of the Chechen government. Initial reports from Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed scores of men under suspicion of being gay were detained by Chechen authorities and 3 reported killed. Details are sketchy and the Chechen government denied these reports calling them “absolute lies and disinformation.” (as cited in the Guardian) As yet it is hard to know what is really going on, but as Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, noted:

I have heard about it happening in Grozny [the Chechen capital], outside Grozny, and among people of very different ages and professions. […] The extreme taboo nature of the subject meant that much of the information was arriving second or third hand, and as yet there are no fully verifiable cases. […] It’s next to impossible to get information from the victims or their families, but the number of signals I’m receiving from different people makes it hard not to believe detentions and violence are indeed happening. (as cited in the Guardian)

For me, these reports coming from Chechnya come as a troubling reminder that despite the gains of gay rights movements in the Western World, notably the decriminalization and destigmatization of male homosexuality, gay men remain a population reviled by various cultural and religious elements in societies across the world. Continue reading