Dining with my friend Plamen at a restaurant in Sofia.
“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 →
“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 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 sport races in the world. This week, however, Indiana finds itself in the spotlight because of the the passage of SB 101 theReligious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 26, 2015 and the law goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The legislation is necessary, as supporters of the legislation 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 lawful discrimination on religious grounds? These questions merit further discussion. Continue reading →
Recently, I learned that a popular radio show in Toronto, the Dean Blundell Show was cancelled, allegedly because of jokes aired about the trial of a man accused of sexual assaults on three men he met in a gay bath house. Dean Blundell is a shock jock, which is defined as “a type of radio broadcaster or disc jockey who entertains listeners or attracts attention using humour and/or melodramatic exaggeration that a notable portion of the listening audience may find offensive.” (Wikipedia) The Dean Blundell Show was apparently very popular; it was on the air for the past thirteen years. Many listeners are dismayed at its cancellation. Ultimately, the decision to cancel the show rested with the owners of the radio station. In announcing their decision, this was the reason given: “The station will return to a more music-based format showcasing the best in modern rock. As a result, The Dean Blundell Show has been cancelled, effective January 6, 2014,” said Dave Farough, the General Manager of Corus Radio Toronto, which oversees the Blundell program. (as cited in CBC News Toronto) Continue reading →
While Mika and I were enjoying our two weeks holiday in England last month among the sites we toured was Bletchley Park. This was especially of interest to Mika as he has a degree in computer science and mathematics from Queen’s University. Bletchley Park was the seat of British Intelligence, Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS or GCCS, later renamed Government Communications Head Quarters GCHQ), during the Second World War where Axis radio transmissions were intercepted and decrypted. Those who worked there in the strictest secrecy and security made an invaluable contribution to the Allied war effort. Of those who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War was a mathematician and pioneering computer scientist named Alan Turing. It is held that “Turing’s brilliant ideas in solving codes, and developing computers to assist break them, may have saved more lives of military personnel in the course of the war than any other.” (Turing Biography) He is commemorated at Bletchley Park for his service to his King and country with a sculpture and a copy of the Letter of Apology from the British Government for the injustice he suffered following the war for having been identified as a “known homosexual,” an injustice that ruined his career, reputation, health and led to his suicide. Continue reading →
When I started school, grade one to be precise, in Frontenac County in 1967 religious instruction was still part of the public school curriculum. While my family was Roman Catholic at the time, my mother and father were public school supporters. I recall every morning my teacher, Miss Boss, would read us a Bible story as part of our morning opening exercises. One of the first stories I remember she read to us was that of the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the time the nuances of the story were lost on me; it served as a basic moral lesson for me and my classmates that the Samaritan had done the right thing in helping the injured man, unlike the Priest and the Levite. Likewise so should we if confronted with a similar circumstance. It was not until many years later when I was a student at Queen’s University that I came to understand the story and the moral more fully. Continue reading →
While attitudes toward gay people have changed a great deal for the better in my lifetime, prejudice and stereotypes remain. There is one stereotype in particular that bothers me and kept me from coming out until later in life: that of the gay man as a predator from whom children must be protected. I am told I am good in my interaction with children and young people. I am gentle and soft-spoken and very easy going and children generally like me. Because of this, it was suggested that I consider a career in teaching by one of my mentors at Queen’s University. I was reluctant to go into teaching because of this stereotype. I was confronted with this stereotype and the prejudice against gay men as teachers in 1986, the year I graduated from Queen’s, when the Chairman of the Frontenac County Board of Education, in commenting on the amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code which added sexual orientation to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, was dismayed that he no longer had any legal grounds to refuse to hire a teacher if he knew he was dealing with an “obvious faggot.” Continue reading →