Category Archives: History

Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination. — Christian Nestell Bovee

Though I always knew I am gay, it was not until the spring of 1989 that I accepted the reality. It was after a weekend visit with my friend and confessor, Father Basil Zion, a Russian Orthodox priest on the faculty of Religious Studies at Queen’s University, my alma mater. It was Father Basil who convinced me I should be true to myself. With newfound confidence, I took my first tentative steps out of the closet. I did not declare my homosexuality to the world at large. I made my first visit to the GO Centre, the gay community centre in Ottawa at the time. I started reading the local gay newspaper. Things were off to a good start, but my confidence took a hit when I read an article in the newspaper on a murder trial in Texas that sent a chill down my spine. In December 1988, Richard Lee Bednarski, an 18-year-old college student, was convicted of the murder of two gay men, Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and Lloyd Griffin, 27. Berdanski was sentenced to thirty years in prison for his crime. It looked as though justice was seen to be done at face value–even though his crime merited a life sentence. However, in handing down his judgement, District Judge Jack Hampton openly expressed his disdain for the victims as they were gay.
 
In Hampton’s view, the fact that the victims were gay made it a lesser degree of murder. That and their killer was a good boy, a college student with no criminal record–it was only his first murders after all. He reached his conclusion despite the evidence that “he (Bednarski) and a group of North Mesquite High School students drove to Dallas’ Oak Lawn area to harass homosexuals the night of May 15.” The motive for his crime was the harassment of gay men. (AP News) As Hampton mused following the trial,
 
″These two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teen-age boys. […] I don’t much care for queers cruising the streets picking up teen-age boys […] I’ve got a teen-age boy. […] These homosexuals, by running around on weekends picking up teen-age boys, they’re asking for trouble. […] They really are.” (AP News)
 
The news report was a grim reminder that many still view gay men as predators who target adolescent boys for sex. As I said in previous posts, growing up gay, the onus on gay men my age was to prove to the broader society we are not perverts. Yes, the stigma of being a gay man lingered well into the 1980s. In fact, in 1980, when I served as a Reservist in the Canadian Army, I remember a fellow Reservist who spoke openly about going with friends to “roll the faggots” at Majors Hill Park in Ottawa. Also, in the spring and summer of 1989, several men were murdered in Ottawa. Their attackers killed them because they thought they were gay. At least one of the murdered men was not gay, not that it matters. The police investigated the murders, and charges were laid against the assailants who went to prison.
 
Looking back, I was not comfortable accepting my homosexuality as living with the stigma of being a gay man remained a heavy burden. Over time, however, through the hard work of brave gay individuals and the gay rights and human rights groups who supported them, gay men threw off the stigma. Life is good for gay men these days, but they should not forget their troubled history. As free and equal citizens, we must focus on our issues as gay men and not allow our movement to become diluted with causes, notably feminism and transgenderism, that have no bearing on our history and the present. As we exercise our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, certainly we can sympathize with those around us but not at the expense of our interest in the consolidation of the gains of the gay rights movement.
 
Posted by Geoffrey

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, posing with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sadiq Khan, Lord Mayor of London.

 

I remember in 1968, my mother enrolled me in a class at the Holy Family parish in Kingston, Ontario. The class was to prepare me for my First Communion. I was seven years old, and in the class, I received my first lessons from the Roman Catholic Church in its perceived need that I learn humility. I have fleeting memories of the classes–on the whole, I think I enjoyed attending them. After our lesson, we got to play games like hide and seek. One night we got to watch That Darn Cat. The experience that lingers in my memory was delivered by the young woman who taught the course. She told us that Jesus, as a boy did not talk back to his parents and teachers; neither did he fight with other children. I think the children in the class took this lesson to heart. The experience was not unreasonable in and of itself–Christianity, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, teaches that we should try to be like Jesus. Knowing that I talked back to my parents on occasion and got into scraps with my siblings left me feeling a little abashed–so I did my best to follow the example set by the boy Jesus. I learned at that early age that I am not perfect–that despite it, I should strive to do good and avoid doing evil. At the time, I did not appreciate that it was easy for the boy, Jesus, as He was Divine, unlike the rest of the children in the class and me. Continue reading

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. ― H.L. Mencken

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Geoffrey out duck hunting.

The words “gun lobby” and “gun nut” are slurs invented by prohibitionists–people opposed to gun ownership and hunting–to besmirch the character of gun owners and hunters. I heard the term “gun nut” used on American television sitcoms like “All in the Family” as early as the 1970s. I shrugged it off at the time as inconsequential. I had no reason to believe as a boy that there was anything wrong with gun ownership and hunting. I remember how other children brought things like duck wings for show and tell in kindergarten and primary school. Wings taken from the wild ducks that their older brothers and fathers shot while out hunting. Other children proudly told the class about their fathers, who had returned from successful big game hunts. My dad and my uncle enjoyed hunting cottontail and jackrabbits when I was a boy. It was not until late in 1989, following the mass shooting at the engineering school at the University of Montreal that I first heard mention of the “gun lobby” used as a pejorative term in public parlance. It came as an unwelcome surprise. Continue reading

Ready! Fire! … aim?

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The Liberal reign of error under the leadership of Justin Trudeau continues. On May 1st, the Liberal government announced a new round of prohibitions of 1500 makes and models of semi-automatic rifles via an Order-in-council. The decision to prohibit these rifles is arbitrary, and like every other policy, the Liberals imposed on Canadians are rooted in divisive identity politics. Justin Trudeau made no secret of his faith in feminism–repeatedly declaring since he became Prime Minister in 2015 with a majority in parliament. He proudly formed a gender-balanced Cabinet “because it is 2015.” He would like everyone to become feminists. Rest assured, Justin Trudeau is a true believer in feminist doctrine–or so he says. Unfortunately, the Trudeau government stumbled in its zeal to promote feminist causes when it passed Bill-C-16 into law. Bill C-16 An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, added gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. Bill C-16 was passed into law by the Parliament of Canada in 2016. Continue reading

Sing if you’re glad to be gay, sing if you’re happy that way. — the Tom Robinson Band

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An accusation was levelled at me last year when I publicly rejected the notion that gay became “queer.” The charge, in short, is that I am a selfish gay man. Now that gay rights are secured–the removal of the stigma of being gay, the freedom to live openly, to participate fully in society, the right to marry among them–I am content to “pull the ladder up after me.” That I reject “queer theory” is true; I made no secret of that. In particular, I object to the conflation of the transgender ideology with male homosexuality–notably gay rights advocacy. In a recent essay, I discussed the emergence of a movement called the LGB Alliance–an initiative to separate the T from the LGB. The problem I found with the LGB Alliance is that it is part of a struggle among feminists–a quarrel over whether transgender women are women or not and if there is a place for transgender women in the feminist movement. I stand by what I wrote in my earlier essay: feminist causes have no bearing on gay men’s issues, no more than does the transgender ideology. The gay rights movement and transgender ideology are unrelated and neither the twain should meet. Continue reading

What matters most is not ‘what’ you are, but ‘who’ you are. ― DaShanne Stokes

 

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The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau.

 

A general election is scheduled for Canadians on October 21st. The governing Liberal Party with Justin Trudeau as its frontman seeks re-election. I think it likely the Trudeau Liberals will win re-election, and if so, this is bad news for Canadians. Since taking office in 2015, the Liberal government with the prancing popinjay that is Justin Trudeau consistently sowed division among Canadians. The Liberal government promoted its globalist agenda in pitting Canadians against one another via the imposition of identity politics on Canadians. Yes, the Liberals, with Justin Trudeau as their spokesman, pushed the belief that group identity matters more than individuality and the content of character in each of us as individuals. In doing so, the Liberal government instilled division rather than unity among Canadians since taking office in 2015. In 2019, Canadians are set against each other according to superficial differences such as race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation and the like. Not only that but the Liberal government set a standard of political correctness to which not even the sanctimonious Justin Trudeau can adhere. Continue reading

I am a Canadian. — John Diefenbaker

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“I am a Canadian,” is the opening phrase in a notable quotation from the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker (1895-1979) 13th Prime Minister of Canada serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963. The entire quote reads as follows:

“I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” (John Diefenbaker, House of Commons Debates, 1 July 1960)

Yes, John Diefenbaker was a proud Canadian–not only that he was a proud Canadian nationalist. As Prime Minister, Diefenbaker advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism. He envisioned:

One Canada, one Canada, where Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. Macdonald gave his life to this party [Conservative]. He opened the West. He saw Canada from east to west. I see a new Canada – a Canada of the North! (John Diefenbaker, Winnipeg Manitoba, 12 February 1958)

Diefenbaker lived during the first century of Canada’s existence. He witnessed the development by which Canada gained independence from Britain. Until 1931, with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, the British government managed Canada’s international affairs. Diefenbaker saw Canada fight in two world wars and Canadians suffer through the Great Depression. He proudly saw the passage of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947. Canadians have much to be proud of in their history.

While Diefenbaker saw all that is good in Canada and being Canadian, he did not overlook the problematic moments in Canadian history. Canadian society was not without issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice. Diefenbaker observed:

From my earliest days, I knew the meaning of discrimination. Many Canadians were virtually second-hand citizens because of their names and racial origin. Indeed, it seemed until the end of World War II that the only first-class Canadians were either of English or French descent. As a youth, l determined to devote myself to assuring that all Canadians, whatever their racial origin, were equal and declared myself to be a sworn enemy of discrimination. (John Diefenbaker, Nowlan Lecture, 6)

Diefenbaker knew of the head tax charged on Chinese immigrants. The head tax, enacted in 1885, remained in effect until 1923. Chinese immigrants to Canada were charged (at its worst) $500 for admission to Canada as landed immigrants. From 1923 to 1947 Chinese immigration to Canada was banned. He knew of the internment of Japanese-Canadians in World War II. He was well aware of the Catholic-Protestant divide in Christendom that existed well into the 20th-century in Canada. I remember my mother telling me that my father had to convert to Roman Catholicism to marry her in 1960. My father’s family is Anglican. It is hard to believe such tribal divisions existed in Canada historically, but it is the reality.

Diefenbaker envisioned Canada as a nation organized according to the values of liberalism and pluralism. In shaping his vision of Canadian society, Diefenbaker was inspired, in part, by the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a Canadian-led effort. John Humphrey, a professor of law at McGill University, became director of the United Nations Division on Human Rights in 1946. Humphrey produced the first draft of the declaration. When Diefenbaker became Prime Minister in 1957, he set out to enact a piece of legislation–following up the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human rights–called the Canadian Bill of Rights. In addressing the historical issues of unjust discrimination and prejudice in Canada’s history, the Canadian Bill of Rights asserts in part:

 It is hereby recognized and declared that in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,

  • (a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

  • (b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

  • (c) freedom of religion;

  • (d) freedom of speech;

  • (e) freedom of assembly and association; and

  • (f) freedom of the press.

The Canadian Bill of Rights was superseded by the passage of the Constitution Act in 1982 with the entrenched Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To his credit, John Diefenbaker laid the groundwork for our national identity as Canadians. Despite what so many people think currently, nationalism is not a dirty word. As I grew up the values of liberalism and pluralism–the proposition on which Canadian identity is built–that John Diefenbaker advocated were instilled in me. I remember the Centennial celebrations in 1967 fondly; the swell of national pride Canadians felt in celebrating Canada’s first 100 years as a nation. I am proudly Canadian. I am not ashamed of my European heritage–my ancestry goes back to the British Isles. In keeping with Diefenbaker’s vision, I view the people with whom I interact as individuals and judge them according to the content of their character. I reject the notion that expressing Canadian nationalism is racist, that it is a declaration of white supremacy. No, Canada is not a “post-national state.” Canadians are well within their rights to stand up for their national interest, and Canadian law guarantees them their right to speak up and do so.

I hope Canadians will not lose sight of the fact that Canada is a great place to live and Canadian citizenship is worth fighting for. Yes, John Diefenbaker got it right when he advanced the cause of Canadian nationalism and Canadians would do well to remember as they face the challenges of life in the 21st-century.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

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 campaign for same-sex marriage rights with its prescient concern for the legal and financial status of same-sex couples to illustrate her complaint. She asserted, “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 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. While 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). Still, by 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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Disturbing reports are 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 three 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 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

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 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 14 and returned on July 25. 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 as it 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