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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Little Gay History Lesson

  I did a post awhile back about being one of the Old Gays. In it I acknowledged the fact that most of us simply aren't around anymore. Murders, drug overdoses, AIDS, and suicide have taken out most of the 'before Ellen' crowd. But things are changing to a point. Here's my little gay history lesson...xo M

  When I was 17 I was stuck in Toronto with no real place to go. I'd been victimized by homophobic crimes that I was not then prepared to discuss, in fact I kept the knowledge secret for many years. But the point is that I was looking for peers, people to relate to. It was at the Church Street Community Centre that I found a group of people;  not the support group I'd been seeking, but a bunch of us young folks who did wind up changing a part of our world. Street kids, college kids, and art fart kids came up with an idea. That idea has morphed into THIS.  And I am proud to say that I know lives were saved simply because of a group of young people who were pissed off that so many kids were offing themselves.

  But as much as things have changed, some songs remain the same. Personally I've been beaten severely several times since the establishment of YouthLine, and I am acutely aware that I am not the only one. I am taken back to a Gay Pride Parade from a decade ago. Folks who had been victimized by gaybashings were asked to wear these large pink bandaids. At least half of the attendees had them on- tens of thousands of decent taxpaying citizens, and they all had been attacked based on their real or perceived sexual orientation. Gay bashings went largely unnoticed in major urban centres until straights who didn't fit the stereotypes were assaulted by stupid beasts filled with hatred. In a bizarre fashion it took heterosexuals to bring a voice to those forgotten by the police sworn to protect and serve.

  Now cue to today- a time of Ellen and Elton and Rachel f*cking Maddow. Gays are more visible than ever- they're in your colleges, armed forces, and on your television screen. The amazing technicolor homo is a glorious beast, one that gives us the ability to recognize the thing so terrifying that our parents wouldn't dare to even refer to it.  But we're not just entertainers- we're construction workers, police officers, cooks, bankers, and farmers. We live in condos, bungalows, boarding houses, and teepees. We're liberals, conservatives, greenies, libertarians, and apoliticals. We are everywhere, and now you know it.

  But with this outness comes a false sense of security. If you kiss a girl, there will still be someone who not only doesn't like it, but will hate you for it. And as too many of us have discovered, there are still those who see it as their chosen duty to remove you from the planet. Some have been taught from birth by insensitive parents, some have internalized self-hatred, and some have joined on the new morality bandwagon that feels so safe in our troubled times. The commonality amongst all is fear.

  When people are afraid, they see those different from themselves as alien, as a foreign race or species. They do not see the carpenter or athlete. The terrified being views people as objects- the colours and other traits become vivid in the tormented mind. Thusly, the insecurity translated into outward hostility. Personal attacks can range from name-calling to blogging to standing on a pulpit, but they all can be summed up into a singular word, and that is bullying.

  Whether the person victimized by such actions is a child or adult doesn't matter to the bully because he sees only generalities instead of neighbours. While those of us who have survived to maturity may have fortitude, the young mind may not be quite so strong. When you are an awkward kid all of the details matter monumentally. Every word can cultivate self-doubt and eventually the pressure can kill. To a youth words can be a weapon of force as paralyzing as a rifle.

   In our enlightened day, kids are still killing themselves because they are terrified of the future. They see politicians referring to those like themselves as heathens and hear the names shouted out of car windows. I know from experience that it can be incredibly overwhelming to continue existing after a gang of skinheads has put you into an emergency room. I am highly aware of the condescending looks from the nurses at the Catholic-run hospital and the sneers from police officers who imply that all you have to do is become someone else and your life will be perfect. I've known people who have had there parents hold funerals for them when they've come out and had one friend whose parents caused his burial. Yes, it is a challenge to be out, which is why so many of us get married off so early in the hopes of fixing what is not broken.

  But the thing that needs to change is us. We need to support our children instead of sending them off to psychologists. We need to look at ourselves every time we hear a news report of a child bullied to death and vow to not spread the hateful language that creates negative reactions. We need to stop using gay as a synonym for stupid and faggot as an analogy for weakness. We need to care about the micros who could grow up to be our doctors, lawyers, and plumbers if we let them. We need to be human beings and give a damn about others because if we truly care the kids really will be alright.

  If you are a young person who is struggling with your identity, please don't give up. There are people out there, there are safe places to go. You've already made it this far and the only thing stopping you is fear. So talk to someone sane, take a self-defence class, and be active in your community while the rest of the world catches up to the amazing person that you are.

Be well.


The Trevor Project 

GLBT National Help Center

CAEO Quebec (English)

LGBT Youth Line (Canada)

Affirmations Helpline (English, Spanish, Arabic, And Hearing Impaired) 

The Samaritans (United Kingdom and Ireland)

Gay Switchboard Dublin

Triangle Project South Africa

Gay Helpline New Zealand


  1. I wonder how did and when the fragmentation in skinhead mentality and culture happened? I mean at first the skinhead wasn't about hate and from what i've read, stemmed a bit from ska/reggae culture. Then it became the nazi skinheads vs anti-nazi skinheads vs political skinheads vs apolitical skinheads. Do you know what happened?

  2. Actually, I do. It varies on location, but it got weird between the mid 70's and mid 80s, depending on where you were. I may take that as a request to do a history of skinheads, since this old SHARPie might know a little bit about it.

  3. amazing technicolor homo is a glorious beast indeed.


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