Peter Speaks for Old Straight White Men – Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

Recent events have meant that the column which I was going to write today will appear next week.  In it, I will praise the arrival of summer, talk about some upcoming music and events and introduce you to a budding Young filmmaker.

Today’s column is being written from the perspective of an old, white, straight man, which is the only perspective that I can speak from with any authority.

Old White Guys with No Bigotry, Racism, or Homophobic Traits

Homosexuality has always been a part of the human condition, yet Society has always been somewhat ambivalent about the subject. While members of the LGBTQ+ community are highly respected people in many countries, in others their behaviour is considered a crime, punishment by imprisonment or even Death! Note that today, homosexuality is still a crime in over 65 countries.

We sit here in Canada, overly and overtly smug in our righteous tolerance. And yet…. homosexuality was only decriminalized in our country in 1969 a). Pierre Trudeau famously said at the time “…there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation…”.

This legislation was part of an omnibus bill which addressed various legal issues including abortion. Interestingly enough, it received Royal Assent on June 27th, 1969.

In the early hours of the very next day, June 28th,1969, NYPD officers raided the Stonewall Inn b), a popular social club with the marginalized communities of the area. The gays of New York City took to the streets in a spontaneous demonstration of outrage, which lasted into the next day. The violence added extra tension to a time of unprecedented social upheaval across the country in particular and the world in general.

In the aftermath of this seminal event, gay people started to organize to protest inequality and to protect their community. Several newspapers sprang up to promote and support the gay agenda. Slowly the community coalesced and began to press for an end to repressive laws and the protection of (and expansion of) gay rights.

And the movement spread, it spread to most of the rest of the world. It was decided that the momentous Stonewall Riots would be commemorated in an annual celebration, which would culminate in a parade.

The first Pride Day parades were held on June 28th, 1970 in a few cities, including New York and Boston. It expanded over time to other cities, countries and continents.

This was the very first one.

Events celebrating Pride began to be held in Canada in 1971, including the first parade in Ottawa in 1971. The range and scope of the scheduled activities across Canada began to grow as interest in the festival and awareness of and respect for basic human rights increased. In 2014, Toronto hosted the World Pride celebration. This was an amazing accomplishment, and the strong Toronto “community ” should be justly proud!

So we are currently in the midst of the Toronto Pride 2019 festivities, which, as I stated above, will culminate in a grand parade, or several, truth be told! Sadly, as in any human endeavour, controversy over race and politics and corporate sponsorship rear their assorted ugly heads. Please, let’s not lose sight of the original purpose of these celebrations, which was  to “celebrate” and empower the LGBTQ+ community. and their wonderful contributions to our world as we know it. As I have said before, Society works a lot better when we have an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels safe.

As I said above, I am writing from the viewpoint of an old straight white man. That being said, I view myself as an ally of the many marginalized communities in the world today, and I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

Working as I did for the Canadian government, I worked with a number of gay employees. For the most part, they were very nice and a pleasure to work with. A few were less than pleasant, but just because one is a member of a marginalized community, that doesn’t give one automatic carte blanche to be a jerk.

We would often engage in conversation, and I found that a non judgemental attitude and a genuine interest in hearing what they had to say went a long way towards building bridges. One of my colleagues was a transvestite. I remember speaking to him on the phone regarding a party we were organizing. He asked if it was ok if his feminine alter ego showed up. I told him that the next time he saw her, he should tell her from me that she was most welcome, and anyone who didn’t like it would be free to leave the party. “More beer for me!” I finished. (This is only one example from 40 years of service, btw.)

I often dealt with members of that community from the other side of the desk, as well. A number of the people whom I encountered were relatively new to Toronto, having moved there from a smaller, less tolerant hometown.

The bright lights of the big city, its tolerant attitude and much more accessible specialized services were like a candle to their moth. Unfortunately, not all journeys had a “fairy tale ending”, as many would face sporadic employment and homelessness, just for starters. It was a sobering moment when I interviewed someone whose sexuality was at variance with their family or their religion. I remember interviewing a young man from a very “macho” culture. He sat across from me, dressed in a woman’s clothes, wig and nail polish on and he quietly told me that if his father ever saw him like this, he didn’t know what would happen, although it wouldn’t be good, but went on to say that the hardest thing for him to deal with was the attitude that women whom he was competing against for jobs gave to him! I felt so sad for that poor young person, and felt powerless to help..

I decided that I would become an ally of this community. It’s not hard to do, just support them, share posts that encourage or enrage, Treat them when you meet them with basic human respect. And respect isn’t “earned” by the way. Basic human respect should be your default setting with everyone whom you meet. As your relationship grows, then you can see whether they are worthy of respect as a musician or a plastic modeller or a beer drinker.

I am proud to have friends across the entire sexuality spectrum. Their sexuality is no business of mine, and I am happy to have these wonderful people to enrich my life. I admire their tenacity and courage and am honoured to stand with them.

Another ally is the Toronto area band “Burdizzo” who produced tshirts which spell out very clearly what busybodies should do concerning “women’s rights” in this specific case, but it also is most applicable to the topic under discussion. Well done!

Here’s an example of what the LGBQT+ has to fight. This event, to be held this weekend in Orlando Florida, is thinly disguised hatemongering. They are calling it “Make America Straight Again”. Pretty clever camouflage, eh?

The bully in the Oval Office is empowering and emboldening the dregs of American society. Of course, we shouldn’t be too smug here in Canada. Consider that the updated Ontario school sex education curriculum has been bombed back to the Stone Age as the bully at Queen’s Park is beholden to religious zealots who wouldn’t have looked out of place during the Spanish Inquisition.

Make no mistake, my friends, the fight will be long. The fight will be hard. The fight is worth it, however. Human rights should be universal. If we stand by our friends in the marginalized communities, they will prevail. I think that’s worth fighting for.

Let’s finish off on an upper note with some great music from “Monowhales” This cracker of a song, “Home”, came out two years ago. Personal bits of interest to me are the billboard for “The Secret Life Of Pets”, which opened the day I retired ;). Also, when I put mustard on a sandwich, I draw a “happy face”. (But that’s just me.) Happy Pride Month to everybody!!! Keep strong, you’re not alone.

See you soon.

  1. a) prior to this, it had been considered a mental disorder, and there had also been serious efforts made to rid the federal government, the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces of homosexual members. Convicted homosexuals were imprisoned and could be labelled “dangerous offenders”. During the 1960’s, my parents sent money every month to help support John Damien, an employee at a racetrack who had been fired…because he was an admitted homosexual. Sadly, Canada has a rather shameful past in a number of areas.
  2. b) I am unaware whether this is a coincidence or not, but it is strange timing indeed.

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