When I was younger the movement was called ‘Gay Pride’ and it was very much about making a political statement. These days it’s just called ‘Pride’ and is more inclusive than it was back in the day. That’s a good thing. And this weekend I was at the annual Pride parade, just as I have been many times previously.
Today, it should be a celebration of who we are. Not just gays and lesbians and trans and questioning and goths and bears and all the rest, but all of us. To me, at its heart, Pride is about celebrating a fundamental value in our society, that we can be whatever we want, love whomever we want, and express ourselves and our love freely and openly.
But there is, to be sure, an element of Pride that is very much about defending the rights of GLBTQ+ in our society, and very much about them asserting their right to be who they are. And that it is still necessary to make that statement saddens me.
And make no mistake, it is still necessary. There are societies outside Canada where homosexuality is frowned upon and there are places where it is actually illegal. And even inside Canada, there are people who in the name of one doctrine or another argue it should still be illegal, and that they should be denied the rights the rest of us take for granted such as, for example, the right to be married.
And there are some people in our society who are just mean and are happy to use this as much as anything as an excuse to beat someone up. Because that’s the inevitable result of intolerance and hate. You can say “love the sinner, hate the sin” but someone else will take your words as an excuse for bigoted violence.
None of that sits well with me. My support for GLBTQ+ rights is rooted in the very simple principle that we should leave people alone to live their lives as fully and completely as possible, and if that means getting married, or kissing in public, or whatever, then they should. It’s not something we should hide from the kids. It’s something to celebrate.
And what does not help is dredging up this whole debate all over again, as though we still think in Canada in this day and age that these are still rights that are open for discussion, that we could still turn back the clock and return to the dark days of legally sanctioned repression and discrimination.
That’s one reason why people were upset with the Liberals dredging up an old anti-gay speech by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. It’s not simply a question of whether or not Scheer was intolerant a decade ago, it’s that the Liberals are saying that they still want to have this debate with him. As though that would help anyone in this country other than the Liberals.
And that’s why some people were very rightly upset with today’s CBC call-in show again on the question of same-sex marriage. The show provoked the unsurprising response of someone calling in and arguing that these rights should be overturned. What good is served by that? Why not also a call-in on revoking the women’s right to vote? I’m sure this also has supporters out there somewhere. It doesn’t mean the question should be open for debate.
So I guess maybe I was fooling myself when I thought of Pride as mostly a celebration of who we are. I guess it’s still necessary to tell those in power and in the media that we have moved on from their narrow and binary interpretation of society. I guess it’s still necessary to tell them that they are not being helpful, and that they are, simply for their own purposes, hurting people.
Meanwhile, to all my friends in the GLBTQ+ community: peace and love.