For a majority of Torontonians, Pride is just another big-city party. But beyond the booze and the naked leathermen, Pride is an inherently political celebration of freedom -- for LGBTQ people just like me to be who we are without fearing we'll be the target of yet another verbal assault or hate crime. I wake up every day knowing my traditional Italian family will never accept me, watch me walk down the aisle or even meet my future wife. But all those fears seem to slip away when I'm surrounded by a community of people who know the same fear and sense of injustice I do. And when we are banded together, marching down Yonge Street with flags and Super Soakers, we are practically invincible.
Historically, prejudice of any kind could be freely expressed with few repercussions (emotional, legal, or otherwise) so long as there was a reasonable justification. Religion has often served as the justification, and has therefore facilitated an array of prejudice, from racism to sexism to homophobia. Over time, the use of religious beliefs to justify prejudice has tended to decline, but still persists -- especially when it comes to homosexuality.
You do have the freedom to say what you want. You don't have the freedom to escape the fallout from your words. When you are a bigot -- and I use the word without malice -- you are trying to block another human being from having the same rights you have. You can feel however you want to feel. There is nothing wrong with your religious or philosophical beliefs, and in our society, you are free to practice them and believe what you wish. But freedom of speech does not carry a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Growing up gay and brown in the suburbs was rough. I came really close to flying to freedom towards the end of my senior year of high school when I drove off a cliff near my home. I thought it would be better than the stress of exams and the alienation I felt from being the only gay kid in the neighbourhood.
Life is an ongoing exercise in empathy. As a human being, your job should be constantly learning how to make your own way in this world while causing as little harm as possible. Which is why I'm ultimately baffled when people wonder aloud if they're supposed to look at everything critically and worry about its potential to harm others. Because yes, that is exactly what you are supposed to do.
You walk into a store and the salesperson is a different colour, a woman wearing a hijab, a young man with piercings and tattoos. You walk into a room and realize that no one looks like you. A sense of anxiety sets in from the fight/flight response to fear. That instinctual response to fear begins because we instinctively fear the unknown -- be it a place, an event, a person.
I feel lucky to be gay in a society like ours, because being "different" is actually a competitive edge in our country -- not a liability. When you're different, you stand out a little bit; and when you stand out, you're already a tiny little step ahead and your brand is already a little bit stronger. You are more noticeable, more memorable -- perhaps even a little more poised for success.
Not only is a boycott of Stolichnaya misplaced, if we're to view this fight for gay rights as a battle, then this is friendly fire! SPI, the producers of Stoli, are actually based in Latvia, and that's where their vodka is actually distilled. Their claim to being "Russian Vodka" until 2007 was largely a marketing decision, and since then they've labeled their product "Premium Vodka" instead of Russian. Latvia is a small country, with a population of just over two million people. TWO million. That's less than the population of B.C. Hell, it's unquestionably millions and millions less than the LGBT population of the United States. When you think of it that way picking on poor Latvia almost seems like bullying - something the Dan Savage who pioneered the great "It gets better" campaign would hardly seem likely to get behind.
The overriding objectives of Islamic law include justice, human dignity, equality, removal of hardship, prevention of harm, and realizing benefits for people. It would be against the spirit of Islam to advocate that Islamic law invalidates the prayers of queer Muslims or to condemn queer Muslims to a life without intimacy, love and companionship. How long will conservative Muslim leaders inflict scriptural abuse and channel their prejudice by selectively parsing the religious tradition?
I spend a lot of time thinking about intolerance and the various things that I do to combat it. Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate on the Internet very rarely results in physical violence. Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate in the real world is much more likely to result in broken bones, a smashed up face or even worse.
The youth I have spoken to over the years have described Toronto's shelter system as a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth because of prolific homophobia and transphobia. I have heard stories of youth living in parks because they did not feel safe in the shelter system due to daily threats of homophobia and transphobia.
Dear Supreme Court of Canada, While I personally find Mr. Whatcott's message repugnant, I am nonetheless in favour of his being able to peacefully express his religious and political opinion without being silenced by the government and forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in damages. (I'm a little like Voltaire that way, though your decision has moved me to blog rather than to put my life on the line.) Canada, which will lose more in the breadth and honesty of public expression and debate as a result of your opinion than you seem to realize.