OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Ontario
Let’s do some quick word association. When I say “gender identity,” say the first thing tha—OMG TOILETS!!!!
I’m not exactly sure where Ontario’s fringe Family Coalition Party gets its funding, considering they routinely get less than a quarter of a percent of the popular vote, but they seem to have enough resources to design and distribute some rather astonishing flyers equating the passage of a bill adding gender identity to the human rights code with bathroom predators.
NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo’s Bill 33, which passed in June, finally updated the Ontario human rights code to explicitly include trans Canadians in its existing protections. I guess the Family Coalition Party isn’t too happy about it, though, judging from the flyers distributed across Cheri’s riding. Referring to the bill as “The Bathroom Bill,” the party accuses DiNovo of enabling child predators by letting “a man who calls himself transgendered” to enter women’s washrooms, threatening “the lives of girls and women by putting them at greater risk from male sexual predators.”
Uh, they do realize that sexual predatory behaviour—especially toward minors—is already illegal, right? Do they seriously think this bill opened some kind of loophole here?
DiNovo, of course, sees the attack for what it is. “The transphobic message of the flyer is that trans folk are, in essence, pedophiles,” she told the media. “The whole structure of their argument is ludicrous unless you understand that basic message: there’s no such thing as a trans person; there’s just male pedophiles dressed as women.”
Bravo, Cheri. Now don’t waste any more time on these kooks and their crazy flyers.
A group calling itself the “Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund” along with an anonymous “beleaguered parent” is suing the Ontario school system for not providing advance notice of gay subject matter.
“The parent seeks nothing more than to be given advance notice so that he can […] withdraw his children before the lesson,” the group announced on Friday.
While the press release itself didn’t mention gay issues specifically, the newly-formed group’s website obsesses over the topic almost exclusively, also establishing their opposition to “misguided” Gay-Straight Alliances, and any book written by GLBT authors.
Say, isn’t it odd that the same groups who often demand schools “teach the controversy” when it comes to learning about evolution and other scientific progresses, are so quick to censor and block other material? I spent my entire grade school education in the Catholic school system where gay topics were never discussed, probably on purpose. The only thing that withholding this information did for gay students like me was leave us uninformed and ignorant for many years before having to find out what we needed to know on our own from an uneven selection of reliable and unreliable sources.
At any rate, I want to offer a thought to this parent. Since he has chosen to sue the school board anonymously, let’s refer to him as Count Moriarty Von Jafar IV.
Mr. Moriarty Von Jafar, expose your kids to as many ideas as possible and stop presuming ownership over their minds. By all means, introduce them to your own ideas (and trust me, there’s plenty of time to teach your kids your own ideas; they don’t have to always hear your worldview first), but have the responsibility to let them discover ideas you don’t particularly like. Shielding them from a world you don’t always see eye-to-eye with is a complete impossibility, and that’s a wonderful thing. The less sheltered and more challenged a mind is, the more resilient and capable it becomes.
Rental Diva, an unlicensed rental agency in Brampton Ontario, is likely to face a human rights tribunal after turning away clients because they’re gay.
Thiago Derucio and Christ Prentice called Juliet Stewart—operator of Rental Diva—about a basement suite, but were promptly told they could not rent the property because the landlord had indicated that they did not wish to accommodate gays. (What, she has a database field for that sort of thing?)
This seems pretty open-and-shut to me. Not only is Rental Diva violating Ontario’s human rights code (with a rather lengthy chain of precedent against her favour), but she’s operating without a license. That’s pretty serious, and I can’t imagine this business will be around much longer.
Still, there are unanswered questions. For example, how is it possible that an agency called “Rental Diva” isn’t set up specifically to cater to gay apartment hunters? That would be like me setting up a business called “Christian Biblical Lodgings for Jesus” and then refusing to accommodate anyone wearing a crucifix.
I swear, these cases are getting weirder and weirder by the day.
I admit it. I jumped the gun with my Congratulalien last year. When the Ontario government announced that all schools—including Catholic schools—must allow the formation of student-run GLBT support groups, I took that to mean students would finally be getting Gay-Straight Alliances, a proven strategy to improve student safety and reduce instances of teen suicide due to bullying. Having endured twelve years of Catholic schooling myself, I perhaps should have been able to predict what happened instead. While students weren’t explicitly denied support groups, the Catholic school board forbade these groups from being called GSAs and continued to meddle with their direction. When students requested a GSA, they were forced to accept a strange replacement—generic support groups where any discussion of gay issues would be ostensibly halted as being not inclusive enough.
Last week, after substantial pressure (and a tad more controversy than I’d expect in this decade), the Ontario government introduced a bill that unambiguously mandates GSAs in any school where students request one. That includes the name and direction that it implies. With all indications pointing toward a speedy passage, I hope that I’m not premature in issuing a most sincere Condraculations!
A crowd of about 200 appeared in Queen’s Park, Ontario yesterday, protesting provincial legislation that will help eliminate anti-gay bullying in schools. This rally also marked the unveiling of some brand new terminology to be used by the anti-gay lobby, as a spokesperson began referring to Gay-Straight Alliances as “homosexual sex clubs.” The protesters then unexpectedly switched topics to rally against school-time “kidnapping, murder, and treason gangs,” previously known as chess clubs.
A bill protecting the trans community from employment and housing discrimination in Ontario is expected to be introduced in the provincial legislature today. This will be the fourth time the bill has been introduced, but its odds are actually looking pretty good this time around. You know what they say: Fourth time’s even charmier!
The Ontario Ministry of Education has long recommended that all schools offer student-run Gay-Straight Alliances. GSAs intend to improve the lives of GLBT students, giving them positive role models, and offering a safe respite from bullying. Their benefits are also well-documented; schools with GSAs have a demonstrably lower incidence of teen suicide.
The tax-funded Catholic school boards are certainly no exception to this recommendation, but they’ve been a strangely dedicated source of resistance. In fact, not a single Catholic school in Ontario has a GSA—and students that have tried to form one have either had it shut down, or hijacked and transformed into a different kind of club altogether. It’s this latter strategy that’s becoming the norm.
That’s why, in July, I was encouraged by the Ontario government’s announcement that school boards and principals would have no say over how GSAs are run in the province. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press. That was during the height of election campaigning, and now that the McGuinty government has been re-elected, it’s time to take a look at the progress that’s been made.
It doesn’t look good.
The Peterborough Victoria Northumberland And Clarington Catholic District School Board (That’s PVNCCDSB, for you alphabetophiles who prefer GLBTTQQIAAP to GLBT) released a tax-funded pamphlet outlining their new equity policy last week. Under the policy, GLBT support is only available in broad-based Equity Clubs, and—in a pretty blatant affront to the Glen Murray’s promise last summer—they strategically de-emphasize issues that gay students face in an attempt to appear more diverse.
So, what would a gay student expect to get out of one of the PVNCCDSB’s new clubs covered by the policy? Here’s what the pamphlet has to say about students who are seeking support related to their sexual orientation:
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
This kind of condescension isn’t appreciated, even when it isn’t factually incorrect. But this particular resource is a rich tapestry of contradiction. As the pamphlet notes in a column directly beside the section calling gay people “objectively disordered,” the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognized disorders four decades ago.
This is not delivering the support that gay students need. As long as the Catholic school board in Ontario receives tax dollars from the province, it should not be free to disobey the scientifically-sound, and government-mandated recommendations from the Ministry of Education. So, now all eyes are on the McGuinty government. Was all their talk about requiring “specifically dedicated groups” in support of GLBT youth just an empty election promise? I’ll be waiting!
(Big hat tip goes to Ann, a concerned parent with children in the PVNCCDSB, for the story.)
- The Colour of Equity [PVNCCDSB Pamphlet]
The Trails End Farmer’s Market in London, Ontario is the subject of a human rights complaint after the market owner forced a vendor to remove a trans employee from their stand.
Karen Clarke, owner of the True 2 You candle company, said she was shocked to have received a call from Trails End demanding that she either fire a trans employee, or take her business to another market. “He said [the trans employee] made everyone uncomfortable,” Karen told the media. “‘It’s just not a family place’—he kept repeating that over and over again.”
Ed Kikkert, owner of the market, defended his actions to the media: “I’m not discriminating at all,” he said. “I’m just asking which washroom would they use?” He continued, “How can you go into a men’s washroom dressed as a lady, how can you go into the ladies washroom when you’re a man; that’s the difficulty I have. It’s not discriminating at all.”
That’s a defense? Yeah, good luck with that one in front of the human rights commission.
A petition has been started to boycott the Trails End market, which already has over 4,000 signatures.
Great news! Thanks to pressure from students, the Ontario government has announced that all schools receiving public funding, including Catholic schools, must allow GLBT support groups starting this September.
“The choice to have an LGBTQ group will be the choice of students, not the choice of principals and school boards,” MPP Glen Murray announced to the press on Friday. “If the students want to have a specifically dedicated group to supporting gay and lesbian and transgendered youth, they will have one.”
GLBT support groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances, have a proven track record of improving student safety, but Catholic schools have been fighting their formation for years. What started off as a blanket ban (a strategy that became increasingly difficult to justify as evidence of these groups’ benefits became clear), eventually turned into a kind of hijacking by Catholic administrations. Whenever a group was requested by students, it would instead be directed into strange, generic support group. Such groups would be identified as promoting diversity and being all-inclusive, but whenever issues facing gay students were brought up, discussion was halted by administration for not being “inclusive” enough—focusing on a specific segment of the student population.
With Friday’s announcement, the Ontario government has made it clear that students will get exactly the kind of peer support they need, and that the Catholic boards’ nonsense will no longer be tolerated.
Having gone through the Catholic school system for my entire grade school education, I’m thrilled! Starting this year, you’ll be getting the kind of support that I never had. Congratulations on this important step, and keep up the good fight!
Correction: In the original post, I suggested that the government’s announcement would mandate the formation of GSAs, but the announcement really only mentioned “LGBT support groups.” Regardless of the title, I take this to mean explicit support for LGBT students, and not generic anti-bullying groups (otherwise what would have been the purpose of the government’s clarification on their policy last Friday?). To me, the timing and strong wording of the announcement is a stern response to recent nonsense from the Catholic boards, but in the interest of full disclosure, until the government explicitly uses the term Gay-Straight Alliance, some people are still skeptical. Either way, the government is pushing for help. Here’s hoping all will be clarified this September!
I hope all my friends in Toronto partied it up at Pride over the weekend, because it could be seriously jeopardized if a Toronto city councillor gets his way!
Giorgio Mammoliti—along with his bestest friend in the whole-wide-world, mayor Rob Ford—wants to take Toronto Pride off the books and into the gutter. I guess he’s got somewhat of a grudge against the annual, weeklong GLBT culture festival and equal rights protest. The festival, Canada’s largest of its kind, is a massive tourist draw, bringing in millions of tourism dollars every year. It has always faced some opposition from various people, largely homophobic, who don’t really understand what the festival is all about, but Mammoliti seems to have a very special vendetta.
Funding from the city for Pride was held hostage this year unless a minor participant in the parade portion of the weeklong festival is banned from marching. That participant is a small group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, whose controversial message has been a wee bit of a sticking point for some. The group, not wanting to jeopardize Toronto Pride, promised they would not participate in any official Toronto Pride events.
Now, I doubt that Mammoliti and Ford really care about QAIA’s controversy. Their concern about the group really seems like a diversion—an issue over which they can ostensibly express outrage, leveraging it to achieve a goal they’ve had long before QAIA was even in the mix: The de-funding of Toronto’s Pride festival.
Rob Ford, in addition to having a long record of opposing equal rights for gays, is the first mayor in years to have been a no-show at the festival. Mammoliti was spotted filming the Dyke March on Saturday, searching for a screw-up—a defiant QAIA member, perhaps—to use as evidence that the festival’s money should be withheld permanently. He says he caught exactly that on camera, and will present it as evidence to the mayor and city council to cut the festival’s money once and for all.
So what will happen to Toronto Pride? If it’s funding is withheld, it’ll have to file for bankruptcy, and Canada’s largest celebration of GLBT culture and progress will face some serious downsizing. Downsizing of a scale that Ford’s influence over the city should face come the next election!
Despite threats from Toronto’s mayor to pull its funding, a city council committee has unanimously voted to continue supporting the city’s annual Pride festival.
Toronto Pride is Canada’s largest Pride celebration—a massive tourist draw, and one of the city’s largest festivals overall. Mayor Rob Ford had threatened to pull all city funding from the festival, however, due to a stupid controversy over a minor participant in the parade portion of the festival’s weeklong events. That participant, a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, had already indicated that they would not participate this year, but Rob Ford still refused to provide funding, saying that he may grant money after the festival was finished and there was proof that QAIA had not participated.
Now, this committee decision doesn’t really change Rob Ford’s douchey antics—the city will still only pay money after the festival, and only on condition that the group doesn’t march, but at least there is some formal assurance that the money is coming. Committee members have also provided assurance that having a single rogue member of the group wearing a T-Shirt during the parade, or some other unauthorized minor participation, would not result in funding being pulled; only full participation would make the council reconsider the funds.
I guess Toronto Pride needs to find some new drama now. Personally, I suggest the Montréal approach: Foster a silly internal rift until the event gets split into two competing weeklong events, making the summer twice as gay!
- Pride funding approved by city committee [CBC News]
Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, has decided to cut all city funding to Toronto Pride, Canada’s largest gay pride festival (and one of biggest and most popular festivals overall) unless a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is disallowed from marching in the parade portion of the weeklong festivities.
A bizarre (and stupid) controversy surrounding QAIA has been going on for a few years now, but this is the first time that the city council has taken to micromanaging Toronto Pride’s activities. In response, QAIA decided over the weekend that they will take the high road and voluntarily withdraw their group from the parade and seek an alternate (and more appropriate) venue—a good idea. Not good enough for Ford, though, who says that Toronto Pride’s funding is still off the table and will only be provided after the parade, once there is definitive proof that the group isn’t marching.
I wouldn’t take his word for it. Ford has wanted to cut Toronto Pride’s funding for years—well before he became mayor, and well before QAIA was ever in the public consciousness. In leveraging a stupid controversy over a minor participant in just one of Toronto Pride’s weeklong events, Ford has found a convenient way to achieve his goal without it seeming like the plain homophobia it is.
In the meantime, Pride organizers are now left with the difficult task of planning one of Canada’s largest festivals without knowing their own budget. And with no help from the feds (we all remember what happened after the last time they decided to help the festival), I think we’ll be seeing Pride Toronto—one of Toronto’s largest tourist draws—scaled back substantially in the years to come.
None of the 29 Catholic schools in Ontario have a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar support program for gay youth, according to an investigation by Xtra.
GSAs are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a means of offering support to gay students, who are frequently victimized by homophobic bullying. The publicly-funded Catholic school boards, however, have chosen to ignore this recommendation along with the needs of their students.
While school board officials deny there is a ban, some were very clear as to whether a GSA would be allowed to form in their district. “The answer would be no,” declared the superintendent of education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.
Well, that sounds an awful lot like a ban to me.
Julien McArdle—a young activist from Gloucester, Ontario—agrees. He started an online petition earlier this month to help catch the attention of school board officials and turn up the pressure.
And if that doesn’t work, students can always request the formation of Greek Salad Aficionado clubs. Only 48% of the bishops find feta cheese morally offensive.
Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, has announced that he will deny $100,000 in funding for this year’s Pride Week celebrations—unless the parade portion of the festival excludes a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from marching.
For some time now, Toronto Pride has been entangled in a ridiculous controversy that I don’t particularly care to understand. On one side, there appears to be people like Rob Ford, who feel privileged enough to decide which segments of the GLBT community can and cannot participate in their own parade; on the other side there’s QAIA, who is using an event intended to be a celebration of GLBT culture, struggles, and achievements as a venue for an unrelated political message.
Such drama. Such dumb, dumb drama. Is there a side that doesn’t deserve a slap?
Either way, now that I’ve officially touched this landmine, I believe I will start a new group: Queers Against Unrelated Issues And Douchey Mayors.
- Toronto mayor lays down Pride parade law [Canadian Jewish News]
The Halton Catholic School Board received a lot of flack this year over banning Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support systems—in their school system. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” a representative told the media back in January.
Gay-Straight Alliances are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a proven means of improving the life of gay youth, giving closeted teens visible role models and support, helping to eliminate homophobic bullying, and reducing instances of teen suicide.
The successes of GSAs made the Halton board’s GSA ban particularly difficult to justify. Faced with a lot of negative media attention over this and its “Nazi” remark, the Halton school board soon announced that they would be introducing a new policy.
Well, that new policy is here. On Wednesday, by a 6 – 3 vote, the school board has re-banned GSAs.
In lieu of GSAs, though, they’ve decided to set up SIDE spaces, a quickly conceived backronym that stands for Safety, Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity. Essentially, SIDE spaces are support groups designated as safe for everyone, not just gay students.
Now, encouraging safety, inclusivity, diversity, and equity is very important, of course; all schools should do that. But let’s not lose sight of the issue here. SIDE spaces are a solution to a different problem. For a support group to be at all effective, it requires peers facing similar—if not identical—issues. Generic “everyone’s welcome!” support groups are not only an ill replacement for GSAs, they were created expressly to make a ban on GSAs more palatable by offering a substitute that ostensibly includes gay students without the visibility. Denying this visibility sends a message that GLBT students should stay hidden, and denies a place where GLBT students can discuss issues specific to them among peers who are guaranteed to be receptive.
So Boo on the Halton Catholic School Board for completely SIDE-stepping the issue.
A public elementary school in King City, Ontario has cancelled “opposite gender day” over concerns that it would result in gender identity issues or turn the students gay.
The day was proposed by the elementary school’s student council as a fun idea where kids could dress up as the opposite gender, if they wanted to. However, opponents, including Charles McVety—head of Canada’s largest anti-gay lobby group, the Canada Family Action Coalition—were infuriated with the concept.
“If this was so innocent, then why did the principal not stop this right away?” McVety asked the press rhetorically. “This was part of a greater agenda to teach gender identity and to confuse our children at a young age, and to tell them they can’t be truly happy until they discover their inner identity.”
In reality, this “greater agenda” was the idea of elementary school students, including Ripley Antonacci, an eighth grader and president of the student council. “We just wanted to have a fun day and came up with the idea,” he told a reporter. “A lot of people do it for Halloween and we just thought it would be a cool idea.”
“We didn’t mean to offend anyone,” he added apologetically. “I was a little confused because I didn’t know why people would say those things.”
And that’s how the kids at King City Public School were taught that taking a lighthearted look at gender roles, even in the context of a fun dress-up day, is never acceptable.
- School cancels spirit day after complaints about ‘gender opposite’ theme [Parent Central]
- School cancels cross-dressing day [Toronto SUN]
With all this silly hoopla over the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council requesting their stations to play a version of “Money for Nothing” that has been edited for radio to replace a homophobic slur, I think it’s time to remind ourselves what real censorship looks like.
Before the holidays, a library in the town of Tillsonburg, Ontario, put three sculptures on display by R Bruce Flowers, a retired teacher turned full-time artist. They’re phenomenal. One depicts two older men in a playful headlock, another is of two hands grasping each other. The last one depicts a man with his arm over his eyes, entitled “Dreamer.”
The artwork was a big hit, gaining a favourable review in the town’s local newspaper. When the article mentioned the artist was gay, however, the mood surrounding the sculptures changed.
“The local Baptist church took great offence to the work as soon as they found out I was a gay sculptor,” Flowers told Xtra in an interview last month. “It seems to have contaminated the work; suddenly it was all negatively eroticized.”
Shortly after the article’s publication, the display case that featured the sculptures was covered with a bedsheet, hiding them from view.
John Friesen, a pastor in Tillsonburg’s New Hope church, said that he hadn’t seen the sculptures, but found them to be against family values. “It’s not portraying family values,” he told the media. “Do you see a man and a woman and children?”
Do I see a man and woman and children? Well no, actually. I imagine all I’d have seen is a bedsheet, but thanks for asking.
Friesen’s son, Greg, also got a word in with the media: “When I go to the library with my children, I don’t want to be seeing, let alone explaining, homosexual intimacy to my children,” he said.
It took a meeting with the town’s mayor before the sheet was finally removed. While the artwork is now available for admiration again, the artist is shaken. “It’s not like they came and studied the work, analyzed it, and then were offended by it,” he said. “No. It’s just because I’m a gay sculptor.”
Xtra, a gay community newspaper published by Pink Triangle Press and distributed nationwide, has been targeted by vandals in the Toronto area. Several distribution boxes have been spray painted with homophobic slurs, glued shut, turned upside down, filled with garbage, and set on fire.
This isn’t the first time the publisher has been hit by homophobic vandals. “This has been going on since 1993 or 1994,” noted Ted Hawkins, a distributer for the newspaper. “It seems to be a crazy homophobic group that has a vendetta for our magazines,” he said.
Sounds like a costly problem. My suggestion: Make the boxes look like adorable, fluffy kittens with big, watery eyes. They’ll meow softly and paw at your legs each time someone takes an issue. Don’t get me wrong: Violent homophobes are probably just as likely to burn kittens, but it should look sufficiently horrifying that witnesses would be more likely to report it.
Just an idea.
Monumental news! Jesus Christ—a tremendously influential historical figure, human incarnation of the Christian deity, and inspiration for the yearly increments of both the Julian and Gregorian Calendar—has communicated from beyond the earthly realm! For the first time since his bodily ascension into the sky nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus has spoken with humans in a way that leaves actual, physical proof.
His topic: Homosexuality.
It’s an interesting choice. Having refrained from mentioning anything about it, even once, during his time in the New Testament, Jesus has decided to finally clarify his position on gays via a letter sent to the owner of the After Stonewall bookshop in Ottawa, Ontario. “Those who continue to sin in homosexuality and their sympathizers,” Jesus writes, “will be going to the Pit for Eternity.”
“I cannot make this any plainer,” he continues, “homosexuality is a sin.”
Well, it’s a bit of a shift in character for a guy who was always speaking out against judgement, instead teaching love and acceptance. The owner of the bookshop has even expressed doubt that the letter was even written by Jesus in the first place. Nonetheless, we should alert the pope just in case. I’ll send a text. Anyone have his number?
- Gay bookstore gets letter from Jesus [Capital Xtra]
It’s civic election day in Toronto today, and the polls indicate a dead heat. By the end of the day, the new mayor of Canada’s largest city will likely either be George Smitherman, who happens to be gay, or Rob Ford, who has been featured on this site twice for ridiculous, homophobic conduct.
Having no patience for intolerance, it should go without saying that I would prefer Smitherman to win over Ford. There are, of course, those that would prefer otherwise—and while they’re of course entitled to vote for whomever they choose, some of their messages have taken a turn for blatantly homophobic.
Catholic Insight, a politically-motivated religious publication, heartily endorsed Ford over Smitherman last week, calling Smitherman “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, that of homosexuality.” While the publication tried to remain as polite in phrasing as possible, there was nothing civil about it. “While those attracted to same sex orientation have the right to be treated with dignity like all other persons,” their endorsement stated, “they should not be appointed or elected to leadership positions.”
Gosh, how respectful of them. We gays are perfectly entitled to human dignity, so long as we not take any initiative on any public matters and remain as isolated and invisible as possible. Still, at least Catholic Insight had the decency to use their own name to deliver their hateful message that gays are inferior, incapable as role models, and shouldn’t be elected to any position of influence. Late last week, an anonymously produced, paid radio ad began airing on the Canadian Tamil Broadcasting Corporation. Translated, it begins thus:
- Man #1
- Elder brother, who are you going to vote for?
- Man #2
- (Snickers dismissively) What a question! We are Tamil. We have a religion, a culture. Take Rob Ford, he is married to a woman.
Meanwhile, near Victoria Park, crudely-designed posters began to appear overtop of existing election signs asking “Should a Muslim vote for him who married a man?”
Calling the ads “blatantly homophobic,” George Smitherman issued a statement to the press. “I will remain focused on offering a Toronto that finds strength in our diversity and builds for the future, not divides,” he said.
The Rob Ford campaign, meanwhile, posted a response on Twitter. “I do not condone the recent Tamil Radio ad,” the campaign stated, “I support diversity & have no issue with others’ lifestyle choices.”
Uh, OK. Except being gay isn’t a “lifestyle choice.” And, frankly, from Ford’s past actions as a city councilman, he very clearly doesn’t believe that gay people should have the same legal rights as straight people, let alone think the gay community should receive any city support or recognition for its renowned cultural events.
Toronto’s a great city that deserves a great mayor. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you guys today!
Sherry Clymer, a first-time mayoral candidate in Ajax, Ontario, is feeling a little out of her league after lashing out at the incumbent mayor during a public debate late last week.
Clymer, a former taxi dispatcher, triggered media controversy on Thursday when she attacked mayor Steve Parrish for raising a rainbow flag during Pride Week in June. “What makes the gays any more deserving of their flag hanging than anyone else?” she asked the mayor, adding that he should “also be hanging up the Nazi flag.”
This rather silly line of reasoning has been used before. In 2008, Allister MacDonald, a councilor from Nova Scotia’s Pictou County, said that raising a gay pride flag would inevitably lead to flying “everybody’s flag.” “It could be the Nazi party or the bikers,” MacDonald illustrated, “it could be anyone.” Just a year before that, mayor Bill Mills of Truro, Nova Scotia, made up a flag for his slippery slope argument. “If I have a group that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too?” he asked.
Now, this should go without saying, but flying the rainbow stripes during the community’s gay pride week doesn’t mean you then have to fly Nazi and pedophile flags. The latter doesn’t even exist, for one, and I can’t imagine that the Ajax city hall has ever received a request to fly a Nazi flag once in the entire history of the town. But, forgetting all that, if you honestly can’t think of a good reason to not place symbols of genocide and child rape at the forefront of your town, you’re not a very fit mayor.
In a media interview meant to regain favour after the incident, Ms. Clymer apologised for her Nazi remark, clarifying that she didn’t mean to compare gays to Nazis; she just simply opposes any recognition of the struggles and achievements of the city’s gay community. “What is so good about being gay?” she asked rhetorically during her apology interview. “If you are promoting entering the gay lifestyle, that’s wrong.”
And this is what all these stories boil down to. Ignorance.
First, let’s get this nonsense about “entering the gay lifestyle” out of the way. Gay people lead all sorts of different lives; they have different careers, different hobbies, and like different activities. Sexual orientation is a trait, not a lifestyle. It’s innate, unchangeable, and no more possible to “promote entering” than the tall lifestyle or the blue-eyed lifestyle.
It’s clear to me that raising the Pride flag isn’t what Ms. Clymer likes to think it is. It’s not a recruitment tool because there’s nothing to recruit for. It’s simply a gesture of recognition on the part of city hall. Recognition that the gay community, as diverse as it is, universally has to put up with exactly this sort of nonsense nonstop, and a simple gesture that everyone in the town, including gay people, are valued for who they are. Gay people are a part of Ajax’s diverse community. If Ms. Clymer can’t value her constituents, she’s not ready to be mayor.