Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman says:
pic by Allan Amato

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Homophobia in O-town

I don't usually write about homophobia or LBGTTQ related topics. Like on FB I try and keep things pretty light here, or centred on my interests which include: comics, painting, my talented friends, family, road trips and my pets.

But yeah, homophobia is out there and it reared its ugly head this week. I'm not sure if it is the weather, stressed-crazy people reacting to the US election, or solar flares. Or maybe just dumb-asses who are taking their frustration at not getting any hockey pumped into their living rooms by attacking gay women.

Two gay friends I know posted this week about being harassed for what they looked like by complete strangers. Both of my friends are women, and they were both attacked by other women; which I find sort of bizarre. Ok, I actually find the whole thing bizarre. I'm lucky; although I'm androgynous- looking, with very short hair and an extra 200 lbs to mask an easily identified gender shape, the worst that happens to me is that I get called 'Sir'. And that ain't so bad. It's something I've gotten used to since my early teens when I initially cut my hair.

So I've been lucky.
But some folks aren't lucky. Check the recent post in Wolfville NS about 'Acadia Fag' who was verbally abused by straight boys at a University sponsored music event.
And my friends in town. I can't believe that a complete stranger actually spat on my friend. And this asshole had a child with her!
Next, some elderly lady swore at another friend of mine and called her a 'freak'! Simply because of her tattoos and differently coloured har.

I can't image what drove these lunatics to yell at, spit and verbally harass my friends who are sweet, creative, cool people. What makes these attackers think it is 'ok' and acceptable to take their anger and fear out on a complete stranger and make them feel like shit?

This is NOT OK. This is an action motivated by hate and fear. Whatever they are experiencing in their lives that made them believe insulting an identified gay woman would make them feel better and more secure is irrelevant. If it had been some guy doing it to some girl, it would have been all over the papers. Or some white people insulting and spitting on black people. But for some reason, homophobia is still acceptable in some people's view.

Just like being overweight seems to be the final target for stand-up comedians to use as material, so attacking gay identified/ presenting people seems to still be ok. Not only is it patently not ok, it is something that continues to generate fear and has dark repercussions for those that experience the ridicule and harassment. Attacking someone physically is bad, but a verbal attack lingers, sometimes longer than the bruises.

Do you know if you attack someone verbally you can hurt them enough to make them go home and kill themselves? That's called bullying. Kids are being (hopefully) reprogrammed to nip bullying in the bud, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We don't accept bullying from kids or teens ('zero tolerance'). We sure as hell don't have to accept bullying from  adults. It is surreal that it happens at all, and it should be a criminal offence. (Keith Savage mentions bullying in one of his posts here).

Recently, a very close friend went through the final surgery required for his FTM transition. I learned a lot both from his experience and going with him to the clinic. I met and talked with Trans men and women and came away with a deeper understanding and respect for Trans people and what they have to endure, cope with and finally win through.

I wanted to let people know how he was doing and was really excited about everything he was experiencing; in a really positive way. I'm an optimist, I've been out for a long time, and I didn't realize there could be anything wrong or potentially dangerous about my news and posts.

Apparently transphobia is alive and well and terrifying. I talked with my friend and he cautioned me about spreading the news, as some people at his work and in his life aren't aware of his status as Trans. I was surprised because I tell everyone who'll ask that I'm queer. I had no idea that other people aren't the same way and that they experience hatred, fear, discrimination and verbal and physical abuse if they are out (or are outed). I was dismayed and promised to be more circumspect. But it really made me think. (**update--excellent post on American Trans Man about this)

We supposedly live in a progressive, socially aware country. Yet, my friend is personally aware that he could be fired, assaulted or killed because he is Trans. I would hope to think that we live in a country where hate crimes would be followed up by the police, but who knows. Is it one person's word against the other? Is it she said/ she said? Would it be some elderly lady pointing at a tattooed, green haired dyke, calling her 'freak'/ 'abomination' and some people on the judicial end of things nodding silent agreement?

How can we live in the capital of a country that supposedly is 'free' and still have a mom with her kid walk past one of the coolest people I know, who is a volunteer, animal lover, helps kids who are troubled, is a musician, and has endured physical problems all year, and still has to put up with being yelled at and SPAT ON?!

Maybe the anti-bullying programs shouldn't just be in the primary and secondary schools. Maybe the programs need to attend to the continued effrontery of cold-hearted bitches who are marching around Ottawa, insulting, spitting and abusing peaceful, gay women.

Or maybe I need to talk with these supposed pillars of 'straight'/ safe, society and let them know how it feels to be frightened, insulted and spat upon.

"Teach your children well."

Then reteach the ##^&@ adults.


PS-- One of the first anti-homophobic songs I ever heard was from Spirit of the West. It inspired an enormous art piece during my studies in Ottawa U's BFA programme. It hit me right in the gut and helped open my eyes.

Spirit of the West's "Take it from the Source"

I was sitting in basil's with a friend and coffee  
Thinking the world a fine place to be 
When the man on my right got up to leave 
And left a little piece of his mind with me 
He said, "faggots like you should be put in asylums" 
Now tell me, who takes the blame 
For his being scared, so unaware 
That he would fire his fear without an ounce of shame 
Whatever happened to love thy neighbour? 
Nothing more than a worn out cliché 
Are all men created equal or has this too become passé? 
You don't need to open your mouth for me to read your lips 
I can follow the language displayed on your finger tip 

They don't look before they leap 
They don't think before they speak 
They just sharpen their tongues on you and me 
Spit poison darts between perfect teeth 
You've got to take it from the source 
Look at where it's coming from 
You're got to take it from the source 
They're only wasted words on me 
I guess i just don't measure up 

Strayed from the straight and narrow road 
So you lock me up, throw away the key 
'cause i don't live by your dress code 
That's ok, i've heard it before 
You can open the wound i feel no pain 
I don't need an armour suit 
You're the one with the ball and chain 

 (c) 1988 (John Mann/ Geoffrey Kelly) SOTW 'Labour Day'


Lisa-Marie said...

This is a really sad commentary on people - grown up people. I know 14 year-olds that have more respect for humanity than these so-called adults do. Unfortunately fear does weird things to people. Chances are these people had weird things done to them. Most bullies were bullied.
As a fat person I have been bullied most of my life. Some of it went too far like the time some one thought it would be funny to slap my fat ass when I was riding my bicycle (for exercise I might add!). I nearly crashed. I could have easily crashed had it not be for my bicycling prowess!
Some people remain stupid for their entire lives and don't even know it. Sometimes I have pity on them and sometimes I wish stupid people would form gangs and have gang wars to cull the herd.

Colleen said...

I'm very sorry your friends had to experience such vile hatred. Some people, quite simply, are scum and project their hatred for themselves onto others.

It's frustrating to see these kinds of people hold society back but there's not much we can do but stick up for those who are bullied and try to teach tolerance and understanding to children.