Saturday, April 01, 2006

Road dispatches

Hello dear readers,

So sorry to have been out of touch. I was in Vernon, BC, attending my partner's father's funeral. Spending time in a hotel in Jesus country gave me some insights into the fight for social justice. Or it could just be the after-effect of all of those Denny's meals .... (do you know they actually have deep fried steak on the menu? And something called the "meat lover's bowl" for breakfast?).

So here are three thoughts that drifted across my head during my time out west, and I'll be back to regular posts in a couple of days ...

1) The real fight for our rights is about changing minds, not policies. Spending time in a town that features a "Pro-Life Thrift Store" and whose newspaper still refers to our community as "homosexuals," reminds you that those of us who live in big cities have it easy. At least we have places where we can gather, gay and lesbian community leaders to look up to, and the ability to walk down the street holding hands with our partners. It's easy to forget that the majority of people in Canada don't have the same luxury and sense of safety. But as I met my in-laws' friends and family, many embraced me with open arms. It seemed like a bizarre contradiction to spend time in a Catholic Church, surrounded by the Knights of Columbus, who I last saw in great numbers when they filled Parliament Hill to protest against equal marriage for same sex couples. But the people I met were imbued with a tremendous dedication to community service and charity. The challenge -- I think -- for our movement, is to spend time with people one-on-one, and explain to them that fighting for equality is the only Christian thing to do. But geez, I'm glad to be home ...

2) Homophobia is often about what isn't said. I think most people understand that outright hatred and discrimination are unacceptable. But sometimes it's the glances and the silences that pierce our hearts. The whole time I was in BC, I got the subtle sense in certain people's minds, I wasn't welcome. When other people's spouses arrived, there was no question that they deserved to be there. I just got the sense that if I had been my partner's husband, I would have commanded more respect. I guess you could chalk it up to patriarchy and homophobia -- or the stress of a painful family situation. But it's in these instances that the "rubber hits the road" in terms of people's attitudes.

3) The pulpit is the most powerful stage of all. It saddens me that the pulpits of churches all over North America are being used simultaneously to urge people to be better citizens, while also encouraging them to discriminate against our communities. There are many progressive, inclusive religious communities in Canada -- including the United Church, the Unitarian Universalists, some Anglican churches, and many liberal synagogues. But it's the institutions like the Catholic Church and the huge big-box evangelical churches that have the resources to mount widespread political campaigns. We can't ignore their power, and must support the people who are fighting losing battles to make changes from the inside.

As much as many of us would like to live in a secular, queer-friendly bubble, we can't ignore the reality in most communities across Canada and the U.S.


1 comment:

Queer As Moi said...

Amen.

I find that among many progressive circles, the entire concept of being a religious Christian is highly maligned, all in one package. We're not talking about bad people here.

It's just that most people I've met with deep-seated anti-queer views have never really had a gay best friend, a lesbian sister, a boss with a same-sex partner and kids... and a lot of people who have never seen a human face to this "homosexual" concept are easily led into fearmongering. That's especially likely in small towns where queers tend to leave for the big city and never return. I've met so many gay guys in Vancouver from the interior - say, 100 Mile House or Prince George - who just "had to escape".