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"Just tell them you are straight..."

04/15/14 4:53 pm

I had the pleasure of dining out with a few friends the other night and we were joined by a nice young man who was at most maybe 24 years old.  He, for the most part, was well engaged in our conversation - which to be honest was a tad surprising considering that he was a good 10 years younger than the youngest of us (no not me sadly).

For most people we think that age doesn't matter, and in many - most - situations it really doesn't but every so often age plays a pretty major role in people's ability to understand as given situation.

On this particular evening the conversation came around to the acronym LGBTT2QQA (Which stands for... Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Two Spirited, Queer, Questioning, and Allies) or as I have been known to say... the alphabetized community.  What we were discussing was the beauty of the all inclusiveness of the community, but also  that sometimes there is some stresses and confusion in the community about what all of this means.

The Gay and Lesbian parts are fairly easy to understand, after all the movement did start as a movement to foster equal rights for those of us that are attracted to people of the same sex.  It originally started out with gay men who fought for equality in the 50's and 60's and soon gay women (who in the 80's became better known as the lesbian community) joined in the fight for equality.  Truthfully gay women had it much tougher back then (and today) because they faced double discrimination - not only did they not conform to convention regarding sexual attraction - but they were (and by many still are) considered to be the weaker sex.  (I was raised by a strong woman and have had strong women around me my entire life... anyone who thinks that they are the weaker sex needs to have their head examined - if anything they are tougher!).

Transgendered, Transsexual (from here on out I am going to use the acronym Trans - I understand that it is not the politically correct term to us, but for the sake of this blog I ask for forgiveness.) people have it rough... they are bullied not only by the 'straight' community, but also by the gay.  Truthfully - it makes me sad to my very core to think that we are so capable of being so cruel to other human beings.  I may not understand what they are going through - but I don't need to understand to have compassion and to know that this is about being a human being - plain and simple.

Anyway, the conversation continued and when it hit upon the subject of Bi-Sexual people I will admit that I expressed a certain... disbelief... in the need for bi sexual people to have their own defined community.  Let me explain... according to numerous research studies conducted since the 1960's only about 10% of the population is purely straight, while only 10% is purely gay.  That means that roughly 80% is (to varying degrees) bi-sexual - that would be 80% of ALL people on the planet.  In fact, being bisexual is almost... normal.  The other thing was that a person who identified as bi-sexual had... choice about with whom they had a relationship. - - At least according to my own perspective, which I admit is not necessarily correct, but it is my perspective.- - 

At some point in the conversation this young man who was with us said something to me that rocked me back on my heels, and the ensuing conversation not only shocked me, it made me feel... despondent.

He said "If you were ever in a sticky situation, just tell them that you are straight to get out of it.".... WHAT!?!?! ... He went on to say that most of his friends that are Bi do it, they tell some people that they are gay, some that they are straight, and others that they are Bi.  He then went on to tell me that he himself has told people he was straight... and that he did not see anything wrong with it.

Now, it could be because we recently lost one of the great pioneers of the rights movement (ted northe), but I can tell you that this statement angered me.  It was, in my mind, a comment that destroys over 60 years of struggle to gain equality, one that actually makes those that suppress us... RIGHT.

I tried to explain to him that when I first came out - over 20 years ago (remember - he is at most 24 years old) - I risked getting the living hell beaten out of me, my family abandoning me, losing my job, and so many other horrid things.  I told him about the struggles we have had as a community and talked to him about ted northe - and he said... "but it is not like that anymore".

And so I said to him... "So what you are saying is that I should hide who I am and that it is OK to do that to 'get out of a sticky situation'.  Essentially that I should deny a part of me that is fundamental to my identity as a human being, my true self, to appease another person and that I should be willing, or prepared to do that, as is necessary."

What he said next was rather astounding to my ears... "I don't see what is wrong with that."

I, quite honestly, was so surprised by the statement that I could not respond.  To hear a young gay man state something such as that... it was what our community has been fighting against for decades.  To now have it viewed as being acceptable...

Then it hit me... this young man has grown up in a society that has largely come to accept our community.  One where, although there is still great risk, for the most part it is still light years better than it was even a decade ago.  

He doesn't understand, because he has never experienced it, and as a community... as a nation... it seems to me that we have done a very poor job of making sure that our history - our struggle - is taught to the younger generation.  They could not possibly hope to have the same understanding, because too much of our history is being forgotten and lost.

What this conversation did for me more than anything was re-affirm the importance of organizations like the Q Hall of Fame Canada, and all that they stand for.  The preservation of our history.

Lest we forget.

GAY RIGHTS PIONEER TED NORTHE DIES AT 76

03/31/14 6:18 pm

CO-FOUNDER OF THE WORLD’S OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY RUNNING AND ONE OF THE LARGEST GAY COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

MARCH 30, 2014 / VANCOUVER, BC Canadian gay rights pioneer and co-founder of the world’s second largest gay community organization ted northe died early the morning of Sunday, March 30, 2014 at St. Paul’s Hospital. He was 76.

Best known in recent years as the founder of the Canadian gay “court system”, which for over 40 years has seen local gay communities elect an annual Emperor and Empress to preside over local celebratory and charity fundraising activities, northe was first styled “Empress of Canada”, inspired by the Queen of Hearts then reigning over a similar organization in Portland Oregon. The election of the first Empress of Vancouver in 1972 saw the beginning of an community institution that would soon spread to more than a dozen Canadian cities, while northe, then a co-owner of the popular drag venue The August Club, retained his title as Empress of Canada until his stepping down from the role earlier this year.

Credited by his American counterparts as a co-founder of the world-wide court system, northe was frequently honoured for his role in the creation of what became one of the largest gay community organizations in the world, second only to Metropolitan Community Church.

Born in Cooking Lake Alberta and raised in the Fraser Valley, northe began his human rights activism in 1958 when he and a handful of friends took to the steps of the then Vancouver Courthouse to demand full rights for homosexuals, who at the time were legally defined as “deviants”. His public debut in full drag was recorded for posterity in a snide note by Vancouver Sun columnist Jack Wasserman, who refered to northe and his friends as “the lavender hill mob”. 
 
A decade later found northe was in the forefront of a national campaign in support of the first attempt at a bill legalizing homosexuality in Canada. This brought north to the attention of soon-to-be prime minister Pierre Trudeau, with whom he worked closely on pushing to get the final version of celebrated “omnibus” Bill C-150 passed on May 14, 1969.

Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s the Dogwood Monarchist Society, as Vancouver’s Empress court is known, was a vital hub of gay community activity. The society and its Empresses, under the guidance and mentorship of northe, played an important role in community solidarity during the AIDS crisis. The work begun by northe and his early “courtiers” continues today, with the coronation earlier this month of Empress XLIII Kiki Lawhore and Emperor JJ Nation.

  The Empress Ball, conceived as a tribute to mark the 50th anniversary of ted's launching the court system in Canada and crown his successor as Empress of Canada, will take place as planned on June 14 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. 
 
Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate a half-century of gay rights struggles in Canada and honour one of our founding fathers.

For information and tickets visit  http://www.empressball.org/

Why gay rights are about more than gay rights...

03/13/14 11:24 am

Labels.   It's what we do so that we have the ability to identify different objects, where they came from, who made them, and it helps us to differentiate similar items from each other.  They play an important role in our every day lives... I mean... no-one wants to put a teaspoon of salt in their cup of tea. 

What about the labels we give other members of the human race?  Black, white, yellow, brown, red... gay, straight.  I'll never understand why we feel the need to label each other... or ourselves for that matter.  I consider myself... I am a White, Anglo-Saxon, Gay.... a WASG... but I don't think of myself that way.  I am just me... a man who wakes every morning, has breakfast, goes to work, has lunch... etc.

I don't have a White morning, or eat Anglo-Saxon breakfast, I don't go to my Gay work, and I don't eat my Gay lunch.  Perhaps some people might think that way.  I really can't imagine that anyone would truly look at their lives and say... Look at me!  I am having my Black breakfast and them am going to drive my Straight car... it's simply ridiculous... isn't it?  So then why is it we spend so much time doing just that to other people?

This is the greatest folly of our species I think... we spend far too much time putting each other into categories and then making assumptions about what those categories are.  "You there!  Get back into the box of preconceived notions that I have about you and stay put!"

This mentality of ours has been the root cause of almost every single conflict around the world.  Be it religion, race, or any other multitude of reasons - our propensity for labeling others is perhaps one of the greatest things about our society that needs to change before we can truly have a world at peace.

Being gay doesn't affect another persons life, just as having a different colour skin, or a different faith system doesn't.  That is unless we force others to adhere to our own standards or prevent them from living their own lives with freedom.

LGBT people are not asking others to change their lifestyles, we are not asking that they no longer be Christian, or Muslim.  We are not asking them to change the dedication that they have for their families, friends, jobs, or community.  We are simply asking that those same freedoms to live life be ours as well.  Who I love and share my life with has absolutely no impact what-so-ever on the life of a person that lives on the other side of the world, city, neighbourhood, or across the street.  To them however they need to have something, someone, to blame for all of the faults in society... it is after all much easier to point the finger away from ourselves then it is to look in the mirror.

Gay Rights, LGBT Rights, are about far far more than winning rights for members of our community.  This is about the oppression of anther human being for something that in truth is intangible.  The active suppression of another person's rights such as we are seeing in the world today in many countries is opening a doorway to a world that, frankly, scares me.

Where does it stop?  First it becomes OK to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity - so we get all those gays... those 'freaks' penned up nicely... but then what?  Who then can we turn our gaze too... who's next?  

There are any multitude of labels to pick from and don't be fooled, there would be a "next" in line.  Those that suppress another won't be satisfied until they have the entire world under heel and we all know the results of that type of thinking.  The Nazi party first targeted the Jewish people, then the Gays.  First it was about economics, then it became about race... Blue Eyes, Blond Hair... the "super race".  Imagine our world if Hitler had won the war.  There are far more people who did not fit his 'ideal' than did.

The truth today is that those that seek to suppress the fundamental human rights of an LGBT person won't stop there.  They are on a slippery slope and if we, as a species, do not do everything in our power to stand tall and fight for our fellow human - we may just find ourselves in a situation more horrific than any could imagine.

The Gay rights movement is not just about gay rights.  This is about HUMAN RIGHTS - because first and foremost, that is exactly what we are - human .


Fighting the Good Fight

02/24/14 12:44 pm

2014... one could almost think that we could rest on our laurels in Canada because of the rights that the LGBT Community has won in the past decades.  Our fight for equality in this country began in the mid 1950's and as a result of being earlier out of the gate than most places, we have enjoyed rights that many people around the world still struggle to achieve.

it has been a long road, and although we have accomplished much... it is still not time to put our feet up and forget that there is still much to do.  

Over the past 12 months we have seen some places in the world take major steps backwards.  Russia, Uganda, Jamaica, and many other countries have instilled laws that vary in their degrees of suppression.  From taking away freedom of speech, to re-criminalizing homosexuality - too many people around the world have continued to suffer under the yoke of oppression.

Most recently we have even witnessed Arizona state, in the "Land of the Free", clear legislation through their senate that gives businesses the right to refuse service to an LGBTQ person and base that discrimination on religion.  This has yet to be signed into law by the governor, but that it cleared the two houses of government sends a very clear message - one that should make us all pay very close attention.  The precedent that is being set is one that opponents of LGBT rights will certainly be doing everything that they can do to leverage to their benefit.

More than that, this type of legislation also opens up the door to other forms of discrimination.  After all... the suppression of women's rights, blacks, and many others were based on religious belief.  The question will soon become... where do we draw the line and accept that this is not just about Gay rights, but it is about HUMAN rights.

That is what many people both in support of LGBT rights, and against, forget.  This is not just about being gay, or straight.  This is about being a human being and having the freedom to live life without fear of being harassed, jailed, assaulted or worse.

In Canada we have had the great fortune of having a government that largely understands that distinction, and with a few exceptions we have a clear separation of Church and State.  One that is supported by our laws and lawmakers.  Is there a risk that could change?  Always - but it is less likely.

We also have a history of people who have stood firmly and proudly in defense of these basic and fundamental human rights.  People who risked their lives and freedoms so that we have the ability to look out upon the greater world and be proud to be Canadian.  Make no mistake, for it is people that won us these rights.  People that fought the good fight and changed the lot of generations of Canadians.  People who even today still stand true and pass the torch to a younger, bolder generation of individuals that are well prepared to stand guard in the protection of these hard won rights.

Each of these people, young and old, are heroes.  They inspire not only their own community, not just a nation, but people around the world, to take a stand against what can only be described as tyranny.  To these people, to all who would stand up for our human rights... thank you.  Thank you for your sacrifices, your dedication and your love for your fellow human beings.

60 YEARS OF SERVICE

02/16/14 3:40 pm

I can hardly imagine what it must have been like in 1954 to be a young 17 year old openly gay man... to say it would have been difficult could possibly be one of the greatest understatements ever made.  The 1950's were not exactly an open time.  The cold war, and the strong push for that whole "perfect" family predicated by television and yes, government. 

Sure, many people would say that there were a lot of people in the world who were gay and out back then, but the difference was not that, it was what they did with their lives that makes this such an inspirational story.

In 1954 a young 17 year old ted northe was about as "out" as you could be.  He had moved to Los Angeles in the United States from Canada because it was not yet allowed for males to study to become nurses.  While in the U.S. ted would have many adventures, including having a rather torrid affair with the Monsenior of the Archdiocese of the Los Angeles Catholic church.  A man who, as ted once put it, taught him a great many things - both in and out of the bedroom! It was during his time in the United States that ted would meet many people who were a part of what was then described as a movement of civil unrest.  The black community was pushing for much needed support under the law, and their drive for these basic freedoms gave Mr. northe the template he would use to become a strong advocate of gay rights.

ted once told me that to walk down the street he would carry a sack with rocks in it, or pepper spray, because in those days even being suspected of being gay would land you on the wrong side of the law.  People were beaten, hospitalized, and worse - they had to defend themselves or risk jail or death.  It was a scary time, but it was also a time when small groups began to form.  Meeting in peoples homes out of sight of the public, they could finally express themselves and be who they truly were. It was in these gathering that people not only had the opportunity to freely love, but to also vent mounting anger at the constant suppression of their basic human rights.

By the time he was 21 years old Mr. northe had already cemented friendships with other like minded individuals in the gay scene, and he took his learning's from the civil rights movement in the united states and parlayed that into what was one of the earliest gay rights movements in the world.  He started protesting on the steps of the Vancouver courthouse - and was largely ignored by all.  That is until August 15, 1958 when a frustrated young man donned a dress and stood on those very same steps to proclaim for the world that he was here, and he was not going to be silenced.

In the ensuing years he would endure constant harassment, public beatings, and his name, photo, address and phone number published in the Vancouver Sun.  He was, for all, a target.  In fact the Vancouver Sun even took to calling him "ted northe and his lavender hill mob" in an attempt to paint him as a mobster and criminal.  But ted would endure, and he would never give up - and for that I am ever so thankful.

ted founded many things in our world: The Courts in 1964 (a monarchist society), the first gay sports team, the first gay business mans guild, the first pride march (called a freedom march in 1963), and many many others.  He is credited across North America for founding or sponsoring many organizations, and to this day he remains a beacon for tens of thousands of people around the world.  He has been called a founding father of the LGBT human rights movement, and he is certainly a "Gay Father" to hundreds of people around the world.

On June 14, 2014 people will come together to honour a man who has dedicated 60 years of his life to not just gay rights, but to Human Rights.  A man who has given up all for us so that we can experience the freedoms we have today, a man who inspires us all to greatness.

If you have an opportunity to attend this event, called The Empress Ball, I encourage you to do so.  ted northe is one of the last surviving people from the 1950's who stood up against tyranny, to honour what he gave us is something that in itself is historical.

For more information about the event you can visit their site at: http://www.empressball.org

I'll be there for sure, and I hope that we see many others there as well.

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