Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during June, 2008

Conservative Anglicans Battle Progressive Churches

June 30th, 2008

Gospel fight

Conservative leaders of the Anglican church have resolved to create their own council of bishops to separate themselves symbolically from more progressive congregations. Their central issue: gay blessings.

The group issued a press release yesterday attacking any interpretation of the bible different from their own, calling such interpretations a “false gospel”:

This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word. […] It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behavior as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. This false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship.

Progressive churches claim that loving, monogamous, same-sex unions were never condemned by the bible, and that the gospel’s overwhelming message of love despite our differences instructs them to welcome and bless gay parishioners.

Knowing how arguments about what God wants usually turn out, I think this thing should resolve itself fairly quickly, no?

And Now, Some Anonymous Hate Mail

June 27th, 2008

The Mailbag

Most disagreements that arrive in my inbox are encouragingly civil; the few that aren’t normally simmer down after some friendly communication. Every now and then, though, I take the time to respond to concerns from a particularly nasty message only to discover that the email address is fake—posted anonymously from the guestbook or some other online source. These are their stories.

Jonny from Calgary, writes:

Not an actual photoAs you boundless hatred for Calgary (and I suppose those of us who are out and proud and making this city more fabulous than you ever could) is so evident I’m shocked at your complete lack of awareness or reflection on your own adopted city. In particular, your post about Calgary being Canada’s “hate crime capital” was full of your typical ignorance. Calgary actually KEEPS hate crime stats (other cities do not- Saskatoon for example reported zero hate crimes to statcan because Saskabush police don’t bother keeping stats) AND Calgary counts every instance of vandalism (by far the most common “hate crime” here) as a separate crime- so when two yahoos (from Quebec, naturally, the source of most of this country’s racists) painted swastikas all over garage doors in Hillhurst, EVERY ONE counted separately as a hate crime. That was a dozen hate crimes! Toronto doesn’t do this, and Montreal- well guess what city has the highest rate of hate crimes based on victim surveys (not based on police practice?) MONTREAL, my misinformed girlfriend! Montreal, home of the synagogue bomber AND the people who attack hijab-wearing women, not t mention the murderers of “feminists” en masse. Do you even bother to ask why Calgary has, now, more (more by far) visible minorities AND immigrants per capita than does Montreal? It’s because you live in the black heart of racism and hate in general in Canada. But then that’s probably what attracted you there in the first place.

You’re a decent illustrator but regardless I am going to make damn sure that you never get more work from Calgary magazines. Asshole.

Ouch! OK, I surrender! Calgary is friendly; just, please, stop pummeling me!

In fairness, I like to poke fun at Alberta (my home province), and especially Calgary, for its inordinate number of anti-gay lobbyists, but I don’t hate it. I rib because I love. Calgary is where I got my master’s degree and, more importantly, where I met my fiancé.

I do believe there is a connection between hysteria over gay people and hate crimes, so the Statistics Canada report about Calgary having the highest per-capita hate crime rate was a good opportunity to write about how anti-gay rhetoric (which frequents the Alberta media) has unintended consequences.

Hitler Youth (Somehow I don’t think that’s his or her real name) writes:

Reader Mail Headshot I love what you are doing with your website. If we can continue to indoctrinate the youth of this world to reject critical analysis of any and all ideas that conflict with the LGBT agenda, then someday soon we will RULE this world because nobody will have any idea how to argue against ANY of our ideology. The Fuhrer did it once successfully and so with consistent effor we will be successful too. Long live the revolution.

Oh, you! You’re a hoot.

Well, have a great weekend, folks! And, while I’m on the subject, thanks to everyone who has written in with encouragement, kind words, and even civil disagreements. Be sure to check out my full-page illustration in today’s Swerve Magazine on the upcoming Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo!

Parents Can’t Censor Curriculum: School Board

June 25th, 2008

Lesson Interuption

The Vancouver Board of Education has outlined rules in which parents may pull their students out of class due to familial religious beliefs. In a formal policy, the board said that while parents may request that students be pulled out of lessons dealing with gay issues in Health class, this does not apply to other classes—and any missed material still must be learned through either home instruction or self-directed studying.

Some parents have expressed concern that these regulations are too strict and infringe upon parental rights to pass personal values onto their children. I don’t believe that’s the case here; parents are absolutely free to teach what they believe to their children. The issue, instead, is whether parents have the right to censor the curriculum taught at school and prevent students from hearing parts of controversial topics that parents disagree with.

Having gone through a Catholic school system where gay issues were never addressed, I know what it’s like to be in the dark on gay health issues and have personally felt the effects of a blind-eye to homophobic bullying. Independent of what parents choose to teach their children at home, it’s extremely important that these are dealt issues with in schools. Gay students exist and often do not feel they can ask questions that concern them directly for fear of outing themselves.

The Vancouver Board of Education is right. These programs do not infringe upon or contradict parental rights, and should not be censored. Violence and harassment are never acceptable, regardless of one’s beliefs on homosexuality, and preventing the distribution of health information to those that require it would be irresponsible.

School Board Bans Anti-Homophobia Poster

June 23rd, 2008

Poster Censor

The Mission Public School District in B.C. has banned an anti-homophobia poster from all of its staff rooms for the second time in two years. The poster, which was to be displayed in locations only visible to staff members, featured a gloved hand holding a medical syringe accompanied by the tag line “homosexuality is not an illness.”

Randy Huth, the Director of Instruction for the school district, said the poster was “graphic,” adding that it visually depicted substance abuse and homosexuality. Huth said that even though students were unable to view it, it was “inappropriate—even for staff too.”

Lauren Gosselin, a spokesperson for the Fondation Émergence who designed the poster, was surprised by Randy’s interpretation:

[Substance abuse] is not what we were aiming for when we were designing the poster. The message that we want to send out is basically a very simple one: homosexuality is not a disease, period.

I’m inclined to believe the poster designers. Substance abuse isn’t mentioned anywhere in the poster text and I’m not really sure that injection drug users use sterile gloves more than, say, nurses.

Incidentally, this is not the first time the Mission Public School District has banned an anti-homophobia poster. Last year, it pulled posters featuring a newborn wearing a hospital bracelet with the word “homosexual,” accompanied by the text “Sexual orientation is not a choice.”

LGBTTQQI!

June 18th, 2008

lgbttqqi

OK, this is somewhat of a diversion, but it’s a slow news day and something has been bugging me. You see, as gay-straight alliances and similar campus organisations become more and more visible, so does this hodgepodge of alphabetical nonsense: LGBTTQQI.

If my studying has paid off, this acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Two-spirited, Queer, Questioning, and Intersexed individuals—and it’s gotta go!

I mean, surely LGBTTQQI runs contrary to the purpose of acronyms and it’s not just inclusive—it’s exhaustive! I don’t really know what “two-spirited” means (I recall it has something to do with the first nations’ beliefs on gender), I’m not sure what the difference between “transgendered” and “intersexed” is, and I can’t even explain why “queer” doesn’t manage to cover all the other letters.

Some people probably feel that they don’t fit into the more manageable GLBT classification, but if a guy like me can’t keep all these categories straight (hey, why aren’t straight allies included? LGBTTQQIS?), then surely people who don’t run anti-homophobia blogs won’t find it any more accessible.

So, please, gay-straight alliance administrators—update your websites. The TQQISFJX9R people won’t feel excluded, I promise.

The Existence of Gaydar

June 16th, 2008

I’m super-happy to introduce today’s guest author / illustrator! Premee is an environmental specialist currently living in Calgary. She says her degree in molecular genetics has given her no noticeable edge in telling whether or not she’s hitting on a hot gay waiter, but it does make for interesting party conversation.

Gaydar exists, apparently, which is a bit of a shock to someone who’s spent years arguing that it doesn’t. (My arguments were based on the fact that I don’t have it. I just don’t. Elton John and his husband could come sit on my lap wearing WE’RE GAY t-shirts and I still wouldn’t know.)

Gaydar

Secondly, I had always thought it was an innate thing, like… well, like gayness itself. It turns out new research is showing that it can be traced to some very specific and definable physical characteristics—and I don’t mean the tired old stereotypes of mesh shirts or an iPod full of showtunes. This kind of basic research really provides more weapons in the arsenal against people who continue to insist that homosexuality is either learned or a choice. It’s becoming more and more obvious that it is innate, biological, and immutable.

So, without further ado, I summarize Lippa et al’s research as follows:

  1. A gay man’s index finger will tend to be about as long as his ring finger, similar to straight women; lesbians tend to have shorter index than ring fingers, similar to straight men.
  2. There exists a recognizable ‘accent’ in about 75% of gay men (sidenote: Rufus Wainwright is gay? I didn’t know th… now, see, this is what I was talking about.)
  3. More gay men than straight men have counterclockwise hair whorls.
  4. Gay men tend to have bigger… good heavens. You’ll have to read the article for that one.
  5. The gay man’s hypothalamus cell cluster INAH3 is similar to the size of a straight woman’s.

There you have it! Now go forth in comfort, dear readers, secure in the knowledge that talented scientists are working night and day to decode the signals behind what most of you do without even thinking twice.

Norway Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

June 13th, 2008

Norway Same-sex marriage

Kathrine, an avid Slap reader and Norwegian blogger, writes in with some fantastically amazing news from abroad!

Norway has officially legalized same-sex marriage by vote of 84 to 41. This makes Norway the sixth country in the world to permit equal marriage rights nationwide, alongside Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, and Spain.

Congratulations, Norway, on this important victory!

Calgary Most Hateful City in Canada

June 11th, 2008

Suprise!

Calgary has topped the list of the most hate crimes committed per capita of any city Canada, according to a report released by Statistics Canada this week. The study also noted that gays are more likely to be the victims of violent hate crimes nationwide than any other minority group.

Neither statistic comes as any surprise. Alberta is home to several individuals who seem to have nothing better to do than publicly voice their distaste for gay people.

Off the top of my head: This week, Stephen Boisson is appealing a human rights ruling that made him apologise for a hateful letter that may have incited a violent anti-gay attack; Last year, Bishop Fred Henry called same-sex marriage a worse betrayal of children than the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, refused to give communion wafers to politicians that supported equal marriage rights, and separately said that gays are as evil as prostitutes and adulterers; Rob Anders, MP for Calgary West, crafted pamphlets linking same-sex marriage with violent gun crimes and crystal meth usage—and mailed them to another constituently entirely; Ted Morton introduced legislation that would have forced teachers to stop all discussions of same-sex marriage unless each student received written parental permission; Ralph Klien used the obscure Notwithstanding Clause to outlaw same-sex marriage in the province before the federal law took hold; Bill Whatcott based an entire mayoral campaign (seriously!) on countering homosexuality, while Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier announced in a mayoral debate that he doesn’t “condone” gay people; and Craig Chandler had his Tory nomination revoked because of anti-gay hate speech published on his website.

With such passionate and unnecessary rhetoric in the province, it’s no wonder that some people get the idea that it’s OK to react violently to gay people. Alberta’s biggest city now has three times the national average of actual hate crimes.

Alberta School Bans Anti-Homophobia Shirt

June 9th, 2008

New Dress Code

Ten grade eight students at Chestermere Lake Middle School in rural Alberta were forced to remove their anti-homophobia T-Shirts after Kim MacKenzie, the school principal, deemed them to be offensive. The T-Shirts featured the slogan “homophobia is gay,” and were worn in unison to promote tolerance and counter anti-gay bullying within the school.

MacKenzie explained the decision to ban the shirts by saying the word “gay” was potentially offensive to homosexuals.

Hmm… Do you think the concept of context is taught in the school’s curriculum?

Politicians Push To Ban Gay Pride Parade

June 6th, 2008

Protest protest

Religious politicians in Israel are pressuring the government to push through private legislation that will ban gay pride parades in the city of Jerusalem.

The National Union–National Religious Party, whose private member initiated the legislation, have held numerous protests denouncing the upcoming parade, and plan to hold ten more massive demonstrations on the day it is due to take place. An ironic initiative, considering pride parades are, well, a demonstration.

Pride parades are deeply rooted in protesting the policies that infringe upon human rights and deny gay people legal equality. The celebratory atmosphere and adoption of the term “pride” is a bold statement to say that gay people will not feel ashamed of who they are, despite pressure from others to do so. Attempts to ban parades, like the situation in Israel, simply re-enforce why Pride parades exist in the first place.

At least you know democracy is alive and kicking when people set about banning a demonstration through multiple, massive demonstrations. Still, Eliyahu Gabbay, the initiator of the legislation, has called opposition to his initiative anti-democratic:

It is unacceptable that [the chairman of the Knesset Constition] stalls decisions that were made in a democratic procedure. It is an anti-democratic move.

Yeah, sure.

The National Union has also asked police to ban the parade, saying that the gay demonstration, unlike the multiple National Union ones, would “infringe on the public order.”

Anti-Gay Activist Loses Union Appeal

June 4th, 2008

Sue-Happy Susan

Susan Comstock, the Ontario woman who sued her employee union over their support of same-sex marriage, has lost her case—again. The Federal Court of Appeal sided with an earlier court ruling saying that the Public Service Alliance of Canada did not violate Ms. Comstock’s religious rights when it used a fraction of its union dues to promote social justice programs.

Ms. Comstock brought up the lawsuit in 2006, furious at her union for supporting equality for its gay members. She said that having even one penny of her union dues spent in support of same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs. Of course, for this claim to work, one’s religious beliefs would be legally powerful enough to dictate the financial decisions of all organisations to which you belong, and that would just be nutty.

Still, Ms. Comstock has 60 days to decide if she wants to bring this case to the Supreme Court. Considering her previous displays of delightfully bumptious litigation, I wouldn’t be that surprised if she does.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must sue my library. They used my membership fee to stock a dishy romance novel without a shirtless pirate on the cover. A spit in the face to literary tradition!

Anti-Gay Marriage Commissioner To Appeal Fine

June 2nd, 2008

Public Service Guy

Orville Nichols, a civil marriage commissioner from Saskatchewan, is going to appeal a $2,500 fine he received for refusing to do his job for a gay couple. Nichols claims that performing a non-religious, civil marriage for the gay couple violated his religious beliefs.

Marilou McPhedran, the Chief Commissioner of Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Commission explained the case matter-of-factly:

To allow public officials to insert their personal morality when determining who should and who should not receive the benefit of law undermines human rights in Saskatchewan beyond the issue of same-sex marriages.

Succinctly and correctly put.

Nichols’ services are on behalf of the government, not his church. Religious officials acting within their own church are free to decide to whom they provide services (many churches refuse to marry inter-faith couples, for example), but it is not correct to claim this freedom applies to followers performing their public duties. Frankly, I think it’s a stretch to claim that one’s religious beliefs forbid anyone from interacting with same-sex couples at their job in the first place.