Category Archives: Gay Rights

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

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

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. — Henry David Thoreau

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“Do you think religion inherently good?” This was a rhetorical question posed to the class when I was a student at Queen’s University in 1986. The class was in a course in the history of Christianity. The question was posed by Professor William P. Zion who was on the faculty of the department of religious studies and the Queen’s Theological College. He was also a Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Basil. We were young students who never stopped to think about this. Professor Zion answered the question for us, telling us, “no, religion is not inherently good.” He cited the fact that historically Christians gathered to watch people burned at the stake as a witness to their faith. Professor Zion had a bit of fun with the class in posing this question, but what made me recall this memory is the fact that the majority of humanity practices some kind of religion. I appreciate and understand the appeal of religion for people. I was a pious Roman Catholic myself for several years. Interestingly, it was Father Basil who supported and encouraged me to accept my gayness and continue practicing my faith. I concur with Professor Zion in that I do not think religion is inherently good. This puts me in a bind at times as I interact with people of various faiths, who view their faith as inherently good, right and desirable, both personally and informally in my daily life. Continue reading

We can always call them Bulgarians. — Samuel Goldwyn (Attributed)

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Dining with my friend Plamen at a restaurant in Sofia.

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“We can always call them Bulgarians,” is a quotation attributed by Wilella Waldorf to “Samuel Goldwyn or somebody” in the New York Post, September 17, 1937. (as cited in The origin of “Bulgarian” as a euphemism for sexual minorities.) The euphemism was used in American cinema and theatre when referring to gay and lesbian characters on screen and on stage starting in the first half of the 20th century. What made me think of this is my recent trip to Bulgaria. I left Ottawa, bound for Bulgaria, on July 14th and returned on July 25th. I met up with my friend Plamen in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, and embarked on a whirlwind tour with him as my guide and interpreter. We had a great time. Bulgaria has a rich history and culture going back to antiquity and today Bulgaria is a peaceful and prosperous society. During the tour, we did not visit any gay bars or clubs in Bulgaria. This was not on the itinerary, still, in the back of my mind I wondered what life is like for gay people in Bulgaria. Do gay people live openly in Bulgarian society or do they remain closeted and if so, why? Continue reading

When a man does a queer thing, or two queer things, there may be a meaning to it, but when everything he does is queer, then you begin to wonder. ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

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Geoffrey and Mika in their library.

I cancelled my subscription to what was formerly Huff Post Gay Voices when the editorial director Noah Michelson changed the title to Huff Post Queer Voices earlier this year. Michelson justifies substituting “queer” in place of “gay” on the grounds the “word is the most inclusive and empowering one available to us to speak to and about the community.” (Noah Michelson as cited in OUT) The thinking behind it is people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc. form a “community,” that is they share a collective group identity. Following this train of thought, Michelson asserts “‘queer’ functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few.” (Noah Michelson as cited in OUT) I get that “queer” is used by some as a blanket term for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, etc., but I heartily disagree with and refute of this point of view. Continue reading