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.
Some conservative Muslim leaders, like their Christian counterparts, are disseminating a letter expressing the right of parents to withdraw their children from course content that conflicts with their understanding of faith. The letter expresses concerns about introducing children to sex-education and the realities of queer families.
Earlier I was called out for using the words "retarded" and "handicapped" in a couple of tweets which referenced Yunel Escobar, the Blue Jays shortstop in hot water for writing the words "Tu ere maricon" ("You are a faggot") in his black eye. I offended someone. I apologized, and after an honest, open, and level- headed conversation concluded that I should be more conscientious. I wasn't foolish enough to write the words across my face, but still, for what I did in the first place, I suppose I'm pretty stupid as well.
Imagine walking into your workplace tomorrow morning, grabbing a marker from the supply closet, walking into the boardroom and writing the words "You are a Faggot" on the company white board. How do you think the boss would react? The Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escoba wrote those words in his black eye and received a three-game suspension. Three games? For offending every homosexual watching at home? For telling every athlete out there that even in 2012 you shouldn't feel comfortable coming out of the closet? The Jays should be ashamed of themselves.
A single murder or suicide of a queer youth is way too many. Fortunately, across the globe, both progressive and conservative Muslims, while differing on same-sex unions, have come out to strongly condemn homophobia in all its ugly forms. Muslim law has always contained majority and minority opinions especially on controversial issues. As such, in contrast to conservative Muslims, progressive Muslims fully support same-sex unions. For them, the Islamic emphasis on justice and compassion outmatches classical rules any day.
Many queer activists rise above their circumstances and assert their voice for justice that is not limited to LGBT issues. Belonging to a vulnerable minority, they understand prejudice and can empathize with "others." Queer Muslim activists, despite facing immense prejudice, continue their work quietly and with dignity. Their work ends up helping the very Muslim communities that so strongly shun them. They truly know the meaning of spiritual chivalry, to practice good without expecting the same in return.
Another Canada Day, another successful Pride Parade along the streets of downtown Toronto. As in previous years one of the largest parades of its kind saw hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets. The Parade itself covers less than a mile or two of Toronto's streets but the geography is far less important than the message it sends. It was only 30 years ago this February that Toronto Police raided the city's gay bathhouses, arresting more than 300 innocent men.