Tag Archives: gay rights

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

If a couple of gay guys want to throw the gayest, most fabulous wedding of all time, the only way it should offend you is if you weren’t invited. ― Orlando Winters

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“No shirt, no shoes, no service,” how often do I find a sign with these words posted when I approach the entrance to a restaurant or shop. There are hotels, bed & breakfasts, resorts and housing developments that refuse to allow children. I remember in 1968 my mother and father were asked by owners to leave their bed & breakfast in Cheltenham, England because other guests did not like that there were children on the premises. I remember back in 1987 when I was a student at Wilfrid Laurier University trying to find a place to live in Kitchener-Waterloo. It was a very tight market for student housing and for one of the ads I answered was told curtly by the voice on the telephone “we only take girls.” In 1989 back in Ottawa as I browsed ads in the newspaper for shared accommodation, I noticed more than a few that included the phrase “straight only.” People discriminate against others in the marketplace for various reasons, and in many cases, such as those listed above, it is lawful to do so, while in others it is not. The question is what is the appropriate response if you find yourself confronted with a situation when you think you are the butt of either unjust or unlawful discrimination. Continue reading

Indiana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there. — R. Dean Taylor

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Indiana is a state situated in the mid-western United States and is well-known across the rest of the United States and much of the world for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, one of the most prestigious motor sports races in the world. This week, however, Indiana finds itself in the spotlight because of the passage of SB 101 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 26, 2015, and the law went into effect on July 1, 2015. The legislation is necessary, as supporters of the bill such as Eric Miller of  Advance America asserted because, “it is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana […] to help protect churches, Christian businesses, and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!” (Victory at the State House) Those in opposition to the legislation such as Democratic Party Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane fear the legislation allows for discrimination on religious grounds. As Senator Lanane stated, it is “extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation. Not only is this law unnecessary, it, unfortunately, has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Governor Pence disagrees, stating “this bill is not about discrimination and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it.” (as cited in the Indy Star) Is religious freedom threatened in Indiana and does this legislation intended to safeguard religious freedom allow for legal discrimination on religious grounds? These questions merit further discussion. Continue reading