Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oshawa attack reminds us of our collective, tragic histories...

Much has already been written by other bloggers on this terrible incident involving a lesbian couple attacked last week in Oshawa in front of their son.

My heart goes out to Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou. For anyone who doubts that virulent homophobia isn't still a major problem in Canada, please remember this incident. This kind of violent attack is merely the most extreme form of homophobia going on out there. Taunts, homophobic slurs, sneers, rude comments, you name it, are still commonplace in most parts of Canada.

It's truly sad. It makes me angry at writers like Barbara Kay in the National Post who continue to say that the LGBT community has no shared commonalities or history, no common tragedies that bind us together like other "legitimate" minorities. Bruce had a lovely response to Kay's words on the weekend (it was his post that alerted me to Kay's column, as I don't normally read the National Post on a daily basis if I can help it.)

Last week, Kay wrote: "African-Americans, Jews, aboriginals, the Roma people and other historically disadvantaged ethnic or racial groups experience their collective memory through the narratives they inherit from their parents and grandparents and ancestors. Indeed, they are a true identity group because they have a collective history and common memories. The sufferings they endured are directly related to who they are historically, to characteristics and events they cannot change, to their skin colour and bloodlines, to the deeds of their ancestors. Where is their commonality with individuals disconnected from the great chain of human history, whose "identity" isn't a culture, an ethnicity, a race or a civilization - just a mere sexual preference that rules out both a collective past and a collective future, the sine qua nons of a true identity group."

Yes, sadly, LGBT people don't usually learn about historic injustices committed against gays and lesbians from their parents. No, we have to seek out our history on our own, usually in isolation and confusion. In fact, I would argue that it's that sense of youthful isolation from the mainstream (and even our own families), often initially leading to despair, and sometimes eventually followed by the experience of "coming out of the closet" that binds the LGBT community. Most of us share in these experiences and are profoundly changed forever by them. I remember quite fondly the friends I made after I came out, sharing stories of the closet and the joys of finally being true to oneself.

When we hear about a lesbian couple getting bashed in Oshawa, the entire community feels their anguish and anger. We don't need to have children to pass along our history (although it obviously helps), it lives in other ways: through art, through literature, through spoken word and collective memories and culture, through LGBT organizations dedicated to chronicling the LGBT experience for future generations. I'd recommend that Barbara Kay, if she purports to be a fair journalist, make a visit to the Canadian Lesbian Gay Archives and do a little learning before she publishes again on this subject.

What constitutes an identifiable group worthy of protection from discrimination in law and hate-inspired violence? Well, if the group has historically been targeted (because of how they looked or talked or dressed or kissed, etc) for discrimination in law, hatred, harassment and/or violence, that's about it, as far as I'm concerned. Heck if that community is still being targeted today for hatred and violence, we constitute a legitimate group worthy of specific protection. Take that, Barbara Kay!


Simon said...

Nice post Matt but PLEASE Barbara Kay is not a REAL journalist.She's a absolute wingnut. Just google her and see what I mean. Or read what I wrote about her bigoted comments. Like you Bruce was good and gentle...but to make up for you guys I on the other hand gave her my Tarzan salute :)

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Simon. I read your post - you are a great and passionate writer.

stopterror said...

There was hate crime here.It was committed by the so called 'lesbians'. My son and daughter go to that school and I witnessed the whole ordeal while picking them up. I was one of the first to stop him. I don't condone his actions but he was provoked and the firts swing was the lady with the neck tattoos. First the aggressor was the 'lesbian' with the tattoos. I heard them call him a 'nigger' three times. In fact also called him a 'fat fuck nigger' a few times. A lot of parents heard this and will be testifying. He did nothing wrong. Those two ladies wanted a scar (probably watching too much TV think they could best him since he's a big man) and got their asses whipped. The real hate crime is these two calling him nigger which was heard. The assault charges will be dropped and his side of the story will show who the true criminals are.