Friday, October 28, 2011

Gayness: not merely a health issue, but a cultural and political issue!

By Rick Mercer, from Rick, October 26, 2011
Rick Mercer's Rant (Mr. Mercer is an openly gay entertainer on CBC Television)
 Every year in this country 300 kids take their own lives. It is a mind-boggling number. And this past week one of those kids was Jamie Hubley. He was 15, he was depressed and he happened to be gay.

And because this is 2011 we don't just read about a kid like Jamie, we can Google him and then the next thing you know, you’re sitting at home watching his videos on YouTube. And he was gay all right. He was a great big goofy gay kid singing Lady Gaga on the Internet. And as an adult you look at that and you go, you know what, that kid’s going places. But for some reason, some kids, they looked at that and they attacked. And now he's gone.
And because this story is all too familiar we know exactly what’s going to happen next. Grief counselors will go into the school, as they should. But what about the old fashioned assembly? You know, where the cops show up and there's hell to pay and they find out who’s responsible. You know like when the lunchroom is vandalized. Because the kids who bullied this boy, they know who they are. And more importantly other kids know who they are.
It's no longer good enough for us to tell kids who are different that it’s going to get better. We have to make it better now, that's every single one of us. Every teacher, every student, every adult has to step up to the plate. And that’s gay adults too. Because I know gay cops, soldiers, athletes, cabinet ministers, a lot of us do, but the problem is adults, we don't need role models. Kids do. So if you're gay and you’re in public life, I'm sorry, you don't have to run around with a pride flag and bore the hell out of everyone, but you can't be invisible either. Not anymore. 300 kids is 300 too many.
And this from Globe and Mail Editorial, October 28, 2011
With the best of intentions, Mr. Mercer would impose a burden on gay people that is on no one else in our society. And anyone who did not bear up under that burden would be, by implication, a moral failure – a coward. That is a very big burden, indeed.
How different (and yet not so different) it is from the burden of recent times in which gay people felt they had to keep their orientation secret, even from family members. One of the signal victories of the past few decades has been to free gay people from the burden of secrecy. Should they now be placed under an obligation of openness?
That would not be fair. There are many reasons why some gay cops, soldiers, athletes and politicians might wish not to be open about their orientation. They may consider it a private matter. They have entered these professions for the same reason anyone else has and wish to pursue them in the same way, without differentiating themselves in a way that may feel, to them, irrelevant. They may even be “out” to the people who know them well. Would every gay person now need to hold a news conference?
And yet Mr. Mercer may be right that if all gay athletes, soldiers, etc., were somehow able to make their orientation known far and wide, it would reduce the power of stereotype and spread tolerance. It might weaken the position of the bullies, or at least give comfort to vulnerable gay teens.
And this By Bruce Cheadle from Globe and Mail, October 28, 2011
A report to Commonwealth leaders says there is “overwhelming support” for its core recommendations, including a human rights commissioner and the repeal of laws against homosexuality still found in 41 of the 54 member states.

But that support does not extend to the association’s leadership, says one of the report’s Canadian authors, and without visible and well-publicized reforms, the future of the Commonwealth is in peril....
The report recommends the creation of a new “Charter of the Commonwealth” and a commissioner for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

The Harper government has already committed to pushing for the reforms, and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said before arriving in Perth that the repeal of laws against homosexuality would be on the table at the summit.
While the report calls for the repeal of anti-gay laws, it frames the issue as one of disease control, stating such laws “impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
Gay rights are just one aspect of the called-for reforms.
These three pieces focus attention on a significant social and political issue: the relationship of the gay and lesbian community to the straight community. Currently, there are far too many suicides among gay adolescents, many of them following extensive bullying. And while the Globe Editorial is right not to wish to impose a moral imperative on all gay adults to come out of the "closet," that misses Mercer's point, that if all gays and lesbians in all walks of life were able and willing to be open about their sexuality, that would significantly enhance the confidence and self-respect of gay adolescents.
However, we cannot have either a healthy society in this regard, nor a British Commonwealth that faces the future head on with respect to human rights, if  the leaders of that organization, among others, has to duck the issue by framing it as one of disease control. Certainly, acceptance of gays and lesbians in all commonwealth countries would enhance the treatment of HIV/AIDS; however, that merely uses the health issue to "mask" the real issue of racial and religious bigotry.
It is to the churches that we must look for change; they are one of the most insurmountable hurdles in the war against gay and lesbian bigotry, and they have public allies, like the current Mayor of Toronto, who publicly refuses to attend the Gay Pride Parade in that city, preferring to visit his cottage on that weekend this past summer.
The religious "right" considers all homosexuality activity to be a "sin" according to their interpretation of the Bible. The Roman Catholic church considers homosexuality activity a sin.
The political "right" also considers gay and lesbian people capable of change, back to the natural position of being sexually straight, through counselling, a position also supported by many in the conservative religious demographic.
If 41 of the 54 countries in the Commonwealth still have laws against homosexuality, many of those same laws are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible that is incompatible with God's exhortation to "love" all of the people on the planet, a creatures "created in the image of God" scripture also alleges.
This religious, moral, sexual and thereby political divide is extremely deep, divisive and bears more than a cursory examination in both political and private reflections. Each of us has an obligation to examine our personal attitudes to gayness, uncomfortable as that exercise may be. The reflection will require confronting the reality that gayness, while different from heterosexuality, is not a reality that must arouse only fear. There is no greater danger to anyone, including school children, from gay instructors than there is from straight teachers. The bogeyman of forcing their lifestyle on others is simply not based on reality and that fact has to become part of the discussion, and the private reflections of each of us.
Further, the male side of the species has to confront one of the most traumatic and challenging facts of the existence of male sexuality: it is a very fragile quality, under considerable attack from all quarters, including even moderate feminists. A brief anecdote, from yesterday's shopping trip to Loblaws:
My wife and I were discussing some item on our list when a woman approached us with this request, "I would like to ask for your help in getting a jar of clam juice from the top shelf, because I cannot reach it."
After I willingly obliged, she moved past my wife commenting, "They still are useful for a few things!"
With that kind of attitude among women of all ages, male masculinity, and with it male sexuality of the straight kind, will continue to be an extremely fragile quality, and to many straight men, homosexuality is another threat to that already fragile quality.
It is up to all males, everywhere, to come face to face with their own sexuality, celebrate it in a healthy manner and dump any lingering fears of gayness in themselves as well as in others. Women, by contrast, seem rather undisturbed by the gayness of their sister lesbians, and men would do well to emulate their detachment. However, that will only come about with a societal enhancement of men, men's contribution, men's creativity, and men's sexuality including those men who happen to be gay.

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