Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during August, 2007

Anti-Gay Town Receives Human Rights Complaint

August 31st, 2007

Flag Gayte: The War On Mayor

A human rights complaint has been filed against the town of Truro for refusing to fly a gay Pride flag, while accommodating other organisations’ flag-flying requests.

Although the town’s decision to pass on the Pride flag inherently raised suspicions of homophobia, Truro mayor Bill Mills removed all doubt when he delivered this gem to the media: “If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too?”

Now, I’ve written about why the mayor’s understanding of the Pride flag is deeply flawed, but I have to say I’m a little concerned that a human rights complaint—filed over what basically amounts to a rude dismissal—would turn him into a martyr of sorts. (I can see the “pro-family” headlines spinning now: “Glorious Mayor Mills Tortured and Fed to Eels By Homosexual Secularists For Bravely Defending Religious Freedoms.”)

Truro Pride, the group that filed the complaint, said the town did not contact them to resolve the matter privately, and the complaint was necessary to kick-start discussion and draft an official policy for flag raising—a valid strategy when dealing with stubborn and wrong policy-makers. Let’s just hope the concerns are resolved quickly and civilly.

Gay Refugee Goes Into Hiding

August 29th, 2007

Hiding Gay Refugee

Alvaro Orozco, the Nicaraguan refugee ordered to be deported from Canada, has gone into hiding.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nicaragua and Alvaro had been threatened with violence if he returned, but his Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, said he hadn’t sufficiently proved he was gay and ordered him to be deported. Since then, all opportunities for appeal have been exhausted.

I’m not sure what the Immigration Refugee Board is thinking, considering that Alvaro’s story has been published in the Nicaraguan media. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not he can prove he’s gay at this point; his safety is threatened.

Dyke March Posters Vandalized

August 27th, 2007

Dyke March Poster Vandal

An Ottawa vandal has been searching out and defacing posters promoting the city’s annual Dyke March. The posters, which encouraged people to support the march and attend the family BBQ and concert afterwards, had crosses scratched over faces in black marker, accompanied by the words “sin” and “repent.”

Attendance of the march was decimated due to the vandal’s actions.

Nah, I’m totally kidding! The vandal wasted a Sharpie.

Another Gay Refugee May Be Deported

August 24th, 2007

Gay Deportation Policy

Looks like Alvaro isn’t the only gay refugee desperately trying to stay in Canada to avoid homophobia and violence. Leonardo Zuniga, a gay Mexican, is slated for deportation from Canada after exhausting all avenues for appeal.

Unlike Alvaro’s case, immigration officials don’t seem to doubt Leonardo’s gayness, but homosexuality isn’t illegal in Mexico making proof of immediate threat difficult. Nonetheless, it would be a shame if Leonardo is deported; Mexico has the second-highest anti-gay crime rate in the world, and we’d be losing an upstanding community member. While in Canada, Leonardo has won both the David Barker Maltby Award for photography and the Youth Line Award for Queer Youth Activism.

Leonardo’s last hope for citizenship relies on Immigration Minister Diane Finley officially blocking the deportation order. Considering her enthusiasm level for Alvaro’s case, I wouldn’t count on it.

If you’d like to get involved in the case, check out Leonardo’s website.

Alvaro’s too, while you’re at it.

Government Makes Anti-Gay Wikipedia Edits

August 22nd, 2007

Government Wikipedia Vandal

Office computers belonging to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa have been used to vandalize Wikipedia articles with anti-gay comments. (Wikipedia, for the benefit of the recently non-comatose, is an online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute.)

A reporter for the St. Catharine’s Standard found several anti-gay themed edits—including one asserting that a Conservative MP who voted in favour of same-sex marriage was gay himself, and another declaring that Mussolini and Hitler were gay lovers.

A quick search using the Wikipedia Scanner revealed even more Parliament edits. One in particular, made to an article entitled Members of the 39th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage, replaced the unbiased phrase “opposite-sex marriage” with “normal and traditional marriage,” and the phrase “an anti- gay marriage website had indicated […]” with “a real marriage website had indicated […]” The vandal also inserted a new sentence into the article: “However, it seems that the Canadian public is still firmly against same-sex marriage by a large majority.” A demonstrably false claim.

Each instance of vandalism was reverted almost immediately, as is the Wikipedia norm, but it’s great to know what our Government workers do with their our time, no?

Letters, We Get Letters…

August 20th, 2007

Overloaded with work

Hey kids! I’m a tad overworked today, but that shall not stop me from answering some reader mail! (Gee, I hope no one notices the re-used illustration.)

Slap reader Michelle writes in regarding last month’s post about a human rights case underway in Alberta:

Mark,

You state “This is not a gay rights case, let alone a “pivotal” one.” … I must disagree with you.

This case is very much about the rights of all sexual minorities to not be subjected to the kind of abuse that Boissoin called for in his letter. The christianist right wing has chosen to actively claim that their right to spew crap about GLBT people supercedes the rights of GLBT people to live peaceful, lawful lives.

While Egale may have chosen to “stick its head in the sand” on this one, it remains very much a valid issue of the rights of sexual minorities not to be harassed by the religious inciting others to violence against “the immoral”.

–Michelle

Thanks for writing, Michelle. It’s a tricky case, all right! And, admittedly, I have conflicting thoughts about the whole thing.

For the record, I agree with Canada’s hate speech laws in that inciting hatred and violence toward identifiable minorities should not be considered free speech. I think this is consistent with laws against personal and corporate defamation.

That said, Boissoin’s letter is up for interpretation, and I think it’s dangerous to declare sufficiently vague speech as being illegal hate speech. Freedom of speech means that sometimes we have to hear things that we don’t agree with—and that goes for everybody. The author wants to outrage the gay community and, in his eyes, prove that we are out to stifle religious expression. Frankly, I don’t take this sort of strategy seriously.

I’m not qualified enough to know whether or not the letter should be classified as hate speech, but hasn’t the overall reaction been wonderful? The attention the letter has received shows that the public is willing to arbitrate what’s acceptable, and the resulting human rights case shows that we will not leave attempts to push the limit unchecked. It’s really encouraging!

Toronto Same-Sex Marriages Not Plummeting

August 17th, 2007

Toronto Same-Sex Marriages

Last June, Reuters announced that only a single Canadian same-sex marriage was performed in Toronto so far this year, compared to 107 last year. The anti-gay crowd has, of course, framed the article, surrounded it with candles and gold, and trotted it about the country chanting something along the lines of “I told you so!”

Why, just this month Barabara Kay—an editorialist for the National Post—declared: “The conclusion they can fairly draw from [Toronto’s] stats is that gay marriage was never more than an ideological symbol.”

Now, ignoring for a moment that it doesn’t bloody-well matter how few Canadians apply for same-sex marriages—it’s about equality, not quantity—it turns out that Reuters got the statistics very wrong.

As of early August, 182 of the same-sex marriages issued in Toronto since January were registered to Canadian addresses, not just a lonely one; and, last year, 518 Canadian gay couples got hitched in the city, not 107.

On Equal Marriage

August 15th, 2007

Gay MP Wedding

Newspapers and television are abuzz about the upcoming same-sex wedding of Scott Brison, a Liberal MP. Even reputable publications are gathering information on everything from who’s attending, to where the secret location might be.

It’s a media whirlwind, alright. Just like when any straight MP gets married.

Italian Mayor Calls For “Ethnic Cleansing” of Gays

August 13th, 2007

Gay Ethnicity

Giancarlo Gentilini—the deputy mayor of Treviso, Italy—exploded on live television Thursday, shouting homophobic slurs and encouraging the systematic murder of all gays in the region:

I will immediately give orders to my forces so that they can carry out an ethnic cleansing of faggots.

The faggots must go to other [places] where they are welcome. Here in Treviso there is no chance for faggots or the like.

Just despicable.

Hundreds of Italians congregated in Treviso to protest the outburst, many wearing pink triangles reminiscent of the ones gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. Many politicians were also visibly upset; Family Minister, Rosy Bindi, was furious:

The term “ethnic cleansing” evokes tragic chapters of history which have brought death and suffering to millions of people. Nobody, and certainly not somebody with public responsibility, is authorized to use such language.

Like Canada, Italy has laws forbidding the incitement of violence and hatred against identifiable groups. Prosecutors are investigating.

Gay Refugee To Be Deported

August 10th, 2007

Refugee Test

Alvaro Orozco, the 21-year-old refugee who was denied Canadian citizenship because he didn’t look “gay enough” now faces immediate deportation. Alvaro originally fled Nicaragua, where homosexuality is illegal, and made his way up to Toronto, where he has been living for the past two-and-a-half years.

Calgarian adjudicator, Deborah Lamont, originally denied the refugee claim in February, saying that if Alvaro were really gay, he would have been sexually active. Though Alvaro was only a teenager when he made his refugee claim, all avenues for reversing Deborah’s sex-based decision have been denied.

So let that be a lesson to all you future refugees: If you want to base your claim on being gay, the refugee board demands that you be as flaming and promiscuous as possible. Otherwise you’re just one of those fakers.

Update: Slap reader Sheena writes in with some last-minute info: “If people are still interested in advocating for Alvaro, his website still says his supporters can write to Minister of Immigration Diane Finley and ask her to intervene in his deportation – it’s his only hope. It’s worth a shot!”

Definitely worth a shot. Head over there if you’d like to help out, kids!

Anti-Gay Callers Harass Wrong Woman

August 8th, 2007

Answering Machine

Sharon Laura Farrell of Nova Scotia was baffled by the abusive, homophobic telephone calls she received this week. That is, until she discovered that she had the same name as a Truro woman who organized a gay rights rally on Monday. The rally was held in protest of Mayor Bill Wills’ comparison of gays to pedophiles after the town voted to not fly a gay pride flag at city hall.

Sharon Laura Farrell, who had no knowledge of the rally or the flag dispute, was shocked at what she heard:

It really doesn’t matter who they were intended for. No one should ever have to deal with the phone calls I got today. I certainly didn’t appreciate the very negative tone of those calls.

When I told [a particular caller] she had the wrong person, it didn’t seem to matter. It was an exasperating phone call because I don’t tolerate people yelling at me on the phone. I finally told her she had the wrong person and hung up.

Eventually, Ms. Farrell became so fed up with the abuse that she contacted Sharon Farrell, the rally organizer, and became involved in gay rights.

I was very impressed with [the organizer]. She is very sincere and she was aghast that anyone would go to such great lengths to get a phone number or to make phone calls like that. I was impressed by her stand. It got me involved.

Good for you, Sharon and Sharon!

Town Council Misunderstands Gay Pride Flag

August 6th, 2007

City Hall Gay Pride Flag

Flashback: The year is 1989 and—oh, wait, no. I misread something. Let’s try this again.

August, 2007: The town council of Truro, Nova Scotia (population 11,700) has voted 6-1 against raising a Pride flag at city hall during the city’s gay pride week. The mayor, Bill Mills, decides to let his words speak louder than actions:

If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too? I don’t want to lump them in with homosexuals, but that’s the point—the issues—and that’s my feeling.

Gays and lesbians already have equal opportunities and work and pension benefits; I wonder what else they’re fighting for.

Charming lad.

So, what else are gay people fighting for? Freedom from being publicly compared to pedophiles by ignorant mayors is a good start. I am not a criminal.

You see, the folks running Truro are unusually slow at understanding the Pride flag. Bill Mills considers it a display of arrogance—a means to “flaunt a lifestyle” to those who don’t care to see it. He’s the type of person who emails me now and then to ask why gays are so insistent on visibility when there isn’t a straight pride flag or straight pride parade.

My take is simple: Pride flags exists because pride is the opposite of shame, which is precisely how people like Mills would have us gays feel. The “lifestyle” I’m supposedly flaunting is, in reality, no different from anyone else’s, but there’s a lot I’ve had to put up with. Pride is a fitting symbol: I am proud of having overcome the misinformation I was fed over the years about gay people; I’m proud of overcoming the personal struggle to accept who I am; and I’m especially proud of how I continue to overcome ignorant policy-makers, lobbyists, journalists, individuals, and churches who don’t hesitate to attack me at every opportunity.

Raising the Pride flag is not an “endorsement” of any particular lifestyle—and certainly not the lifestyle that Mayor Mills has chosen to assign to all of a diverse group. Rather, it’s a gesture of dignity and recognition of a minority’s struggle that, if refused in this manner, re-enforces the purpose of why that symbol exists. Mayor Mills may not care to see the Pride flag one week a year, but I have to put up with discriminatory nonsense all the time.

Incidentally, municipal proclamations such as flag raising are generally considered a public service of city hall.

A tip o’ the hat to Devin Maxwell, who grew up in Truro.

Queer Lion Award Debuts in Venice

August 3rd, 2007

Queer Lion Award

The Venice Film Festival has officially introduced the “Queer Lion Award,” which will be bestowed upon films that accurately portray gay characters.

So, there you go: An accurate representation of gays in film is still special enough to garner awards. I wonder if “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry” will be up this year?

Gay Couple Arrested For Kissing

August 1st, 2007

Gay Romans

Two gay men were arrested in Rome after they shared a kiss outside the Colosseum. Gay rights organizations are now protesting the incident by holding a mass “protest kiss” at the same location, August 2nd.

Cool idea; it reminds me of something I saw painted on old pottery the last time I was in Rome.