Category Archives: Current Events

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 20th 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 recent 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

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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

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there. — Clare Boothe Luce

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Freedom to Read week begins this year in Canada on February 26th and runs through March 4th. As a librarian, I support the right to intellectual freedom and stand firmly opposed to censorship. As to what is censorship, I find the following definition of what constitutes censorship formed by the American Library Association the most comprehensive and inclusive:

Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone. (American Library Association)

The key point in this definition is the fact that “the censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.” 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

Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet. — Lewis Mumford

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Using the toilet is a basic human need. Everyone needs to relieve themselves and defecate; these are natural bodily functions. As  small children, going to the bathroom is typically a shameless affair. It is not unusual to do your business under the care and supervision of a parent or caregiver at home and in public washrooms. I remember accompanying my mother into public women’s washrooms as a small boy when I had to go. As we grow older, using the bathroom becomes a more private affair. People generally prefer to respond to the call of nature without an audience. This preference was brought home to me the time while serving in the Canadian Army I found myself and my regiment taking part in an exercise at a National Guard camp in Grayling, Michigan. In 1979 at least, the U.S. Army did not concern itself with privacy in the washroom facilities for the lower ranks. The urinal was an open trough and the “shitters” were in a row in plain view. Pooping in plain view of your comrades took a little getting used to. Fortunately, with existing etiquette concerning public washrooms one is generally assured a modicum of privacy. In addition, public washrooms are designated for men and women separately. This has long been the norm and quite reasonable, so how did public washroom etiquette become such a hot button issue in recent history? Continue reading

I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary. […] Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our behaviour better. — C.S. Lewis

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There is a great deal of discussion about Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, jailed by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning who found her in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She defied the court order to issue marriage licenses as required in her capacity as County Clerk. Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 that made same-sex marriage lawful across the United States. She justifies her refusal to issue marriage licenses on the grounds of her religious objection to same-sex marriage.  As she stated: “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.” (New York Times) The question here is whether her refusal to issue marriage licenses is genuinely a matter of faith and conscientious objection to same-sex marriage or, as many of her critics allege, simply a cynical ploy on her part to draw attention to herself and feather her own nest in the process. Is this nothing more than religious hypocrisy on her part? Continue reading