Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've gotten somewhere?

My friend turned to me on Saturday night.

There was noise, but not much. I could hear her. There were blinking lights, but they were deadened in our part of the dance hall by the intruding foyer lights. I could see her. Wow, I thought, your wife is lucky to have you - you are a beautiful person.

She was speaking. I was listening.

- I've finally found somebody else like you!
- What do you mean?
- An optimistic gay man!

How unfortunate that it took you this long. Also, am I completely optimistic? Do I deserve such a title.

- And I want you to meet him, and I want you to marry him.
- Wait a moment; this is just unfair. Tell me more. Excitement.
- He is from the Ukraine. He came to the Pride Centre office yesterday - you remember that meeting I told you I had with some guy I didn't know and you told me you hoped it went well, and that you'd care more if the youth in question was a high school student because you're a jerk like that - and he started talking and I talked back and he was talking about how his parents don't like him being gay and how he didn't care and how he just needed a place to talk about being gay because he didn't have any gay friends in Canada yet... but he is crazy optimistic... she continued.

I thought, my favourite book I have read this year was set in the Ukraine... I am listening...

And thinking, maybe, just maybe I've gotten somewhere. I'm one of the optimistic one's. And there are so many of and so few of us...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pride Week

You wouldn’t have known it if you lived in Regina - hell, you probably wouldn’t have known it if the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina building was your neighbour - but last week was Pride Week here in town. As such, I got to participate in my first ever Pride events.

And I was thoroughly ___________________ (fill in the blank) with everything. Except the dancing.

I went to a film viewing. The Politics of Pride. Made me sad, and want to cry, and carry dramatic signs at the parade.

I went to a Coming-Out Party. Watched a woman ask various voluntary speakers (anybody from the audience) questions about their coming out experience. Made me sad, and want to cry, and carry dramatic signs at the parade (particularly when I saw a student that I had taught collect the courage to go up and speak).

I went to a White Party - which is merely a party where everybody wears white and dances with strobe lights until the end of time (or whatever that instant in which the lights are turned on at the bar is actually called). Had a great time. Smiled a lot. Felt like I was a part of something. Made me want to carry dramatic signs at the parade.

Saturday afternoon came and past.

I went to a coffee shop and read.

Didn’t go walking down any streets with my ‘brothers and sisters’ carrying rainbows and waving signs and holding hands and kissing and wearing minimal clothing - or anything like that.

I started a new book instead.

Saturday night arrived. I danced. There was supposed to be a drag show, but it was cancelled - so there was only dancing. And more meeting of people. Lots of people. Having random men call for my attention - offering some random men my attention and then moving on. If only I was a slut.

So I danced. Me and some lesbians, avoiding boys that I didn’t know.

Overall, a good-ish week. Nothing special - except for a reminder of the importance of being gay, and the joy of being gay.

I disappointed myself though. I kept my participation in the festivities limited to myself - meaning, I didn’t tell people I was going to them. My parents didn’t know I was going to a viewing party. Neither did my friends (not even the friends I happened to run into down the street from the theatre who were curious about what I was up to). These people know I am gay. Why did I not tell them?

Oh yeah - because I don’t know if they are willing or able to accept the cultural side of me being gay. One of those things where I have to give them a chance to decide, and behave as a response to their decision.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This is our government.

I am sure that I am not the only Canadian who took the events of May 2nd with a little bit of concern. When Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada made history, becoming the first majority Conservative government elected to power since the 80s, there was a sensation in the country. Not many people were happy it seemed.

But there was also a sigh. No more elections, for four years. Some stability. Certain stability. For four years.

A sigh of concern, or a sigh of relief?

I'm not going to complain about the government, or about how Canada needs to reorganize their electoral laws to be more representative of the population.

Instead I am going to make a note about the Conservative Party of Canada.

The CPC just finished their national convention, where they surely celebrated their recent victory and thought of ways that they could take this chance as a means of organizing how they are going to socially reconstruct society. Which is the ultimate result of any election - particularly those that result in a majority.

And we are on the chopping block, it seems.

Buried in this CBC News Report on the results of the convention is the following couple paragraphs:

...delegates passed a resolution saying the party supports the freedom of religious organizations to refuse to perform same-sex marriages or allow the use of their facilities for events incompatible with their faith and beliefs.

The resolution changed the wording of an existing party policy on gay marriage, which said the Conservative "government" supported legislation saying marriage is between one man and one woman, with delegates voting to change it to say the Conservative Party supports the move.

The resolutions set party policy but are not binding on the government.

Gay marriage has long been a thorn in the side of the party and an issue opposition parties have used to paint the Tories as behind the times. Canadian courts started the process of allowing gay marriage in 2003 and the Liberal government in 2005 passed a law making it legal.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper allowed a free vote on a motion whether to re-open the same-sex marriage debate in the House of Commons soon after the Conservatives took power in 2006. After the motion was defeated, Harper said he didn't want to revisit the issue.

But the ability of religious organizations to be able to say no to performing the ceremonies has been an irritant to the party's grassroots supporters.

It is important to note that party resolutions are not binding on government policy. Indeed, as the right to marry has been passed in the courts already as a Human Right (happening even before we had the legal right to marry, in 2003 rather than 2005), it would take a complete reshuffling of the Supreme Court of Canada in favour of Conservative seats. Which just happened.

Still, I am not overly concerned. Unless Harper wins in 2015.

Regardless, we should make it clear to people - to our friends and family - that this party does not support us having the right to marry. I will be sure to tell my few conservative friends in the coming weeks that their party does not view my ability to love as equal or as legitimate as their own - and that this prejudice has been formalized in party documentation. I hope you do the same.

Knowing somebody who is gay only gets us so far - using our relationships to help people understand how we exist in the world gets us so much farther.

For example - earlier this week my farther told me that I had gotten a phone call from the Canadian Blood Services.

'They want your blood'
'No they don't.'
'They say that they do.'
'I can't give blood anymore.'
'Why not?'
(insert snarky tone suggesting that he should already know this)
'Because I'm gay, dad.'

Silence. (and it is not because he didn't know I was gay)

That changed how he understood my relationship with the world around me. And that is regarding my right to give blood, not my right to marry...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Burnaby and Tennessee

Burnaby, Burnaby, Burnaby.

My relationship with today's problems started years ago. It was my first year of University. I was sitting in my education advisor's office, talking about what classes I should take to best prepare me to teach curriculum, and that got us started.

My advisor is the most respected authority on evaluation and social studies curriculum development in Western Canada. She was doing a study on this new curriculum for the B.C. government. A year-long course required for all graduating high school students, combining Canadian History with Indigenous Studies and Social Studies with a focus on Social Justice.

Sounds cool, hey?

At the time I never would've thought about it, but it only makes sense now. One of the units is about gay rights, or, more specifically, the history of gay people in Canada.

Some parents don't like this. The vocal ones seem to live in Burnaby. They perceive this as an attempt at social engineering through curriculum - the government trying to convince children to comply with things that are objectionable.

I have a couple, complicated responses to this.

Firstly, the point of social studies curriculum, expressed in every text book and article I have read and written on the topic, is to engineer society into something that is more civically coherent. It always has been the purpose of Social Studies. Always will be. Does that make it right? No - but I will defend it anyways. It is the great equalizer that can serve to enlighten children by providing them some lens through which they can begin interpreting the world other than their parents. And it has been somewhat successful - we are seeing a better integration of immigrants than ever before in Canada (though these tend to be the children or grandchildren of immigrants), for example. Just one example of social cohesion increasing (though there are perhaps valid arguments that it is not - though you'd have to consider pandering to extremists to buy into them).

Secondly, gay education does not exist. It does not even need to be about the sexual realities of being gay - for the majority of the human population, this is of limited interest (if of any at all). What should be of interest to everybody is the way that homosexuals are treated by, perceived by, or themselves perceive society. And starting to break down the barriers that exist between our cultures by educating people about a fuller breadth of gay society than that presented in the media during Pride Festivals or that is read on the walls of the bathroom stall. This is done poorly in education generally whenever discussing a minority, but by offering a voice to them, something is being accomplished - even if it only acts as a spark for interest later in life. It is not bad to introduce people to another culture. We are everywhere - you cannot hide from us. Not even at your church (we are likely your organist, choir conductor, and lead tenor all wrapped in one...)

Thirdly, we should not be presented separately in curriculum. We should be fully integrated into it. This concern is a major feature of feminist curriculum theory - one that has not been listened to well by curriculum writers by has started to affect curriculum delivery in the classroom in the past ten years. We are part of society - we are everywhere - we are not separate or hidden in a ghetto. Don't place us in one at school, particularly not in curriculums. It produces frustration in teachers and in students - "Oh, we're going to do the GAY unit?" (dramatically roll your eyes).

Early this year I read Felice Picano's Like People in History. I did not love it. I did not buy into it entirely. I didn't like the drugs - I think that is what turned me off. But I'll be damned if it didn't help raise my personal awareness of how homosexuals have always been around - always been interpreting the world through a slightly different lens. Changing with the times. Sometimes changing faster than the times - sometimes slower, but always changing. With society - not separate from it.

To the B.C. government (who is doing a lot of right things with this curriculum renewal): Include us in the curriculum. But don't toss us into our own unit. We are an integral part of society, and have been here since time immemorial. We need to be included in curriculum just as heterosexuals are - if only to present a more realistic image of society.

To the parents of Burnaby: Yes, what your child is being put through is social engineering. It is the nature of education. Go read about the goals of education, particularly public, mandatory education - read the books and articles written by academics - and you'll realize that it has never been otherwise. And though you are a stakeholder in the system (and this has been my stance on education ever since I was in high school), you are perhaps the least important of all. Take a back seat and let your child learn about the world in which he lives in the class that is designated to teach him about the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tennessee and Burnaby (hey that rhymes!)

Let me start with Tennessee.

The middle of May 2011 has not been kind to teachers in Tennessee. Or to gay people. I can't imagine being both at the same time. The Tennessee Senate has passed a law that will prevent teachers from discussing homosexuality with their students. This is being called the 'Don't Say Gay!" law (what a deceptively exciting title!).

Instead, any discussion of sexuality will be limited to natural-health sexual-reproduction.

Which, aside from being a reality that no longer exists, is essentially the sexual education that I was provided with and that has completely failed to prepare myself or many of my peers for sexual health as gay or lesbian men and women. And I have made it clear in the past that I feel this is a moral oversight.

Previously, it was a curricular concern - and teachers mostly choosing not to deviate from the guidelines of the curriculum. Soon (as early as 2012 - when the bill will be taken up by the House) it will be illegal to deviate from this curriculum and talk about homosexuality in a sexual health course. Or at all.

Because my numerous memories about being properly instructed about having sex with men made me want to have sex with men. Just like my numerous memories of being instructed on how to insert my penis into a vagina made me want to do that.

Wait a minute.

This is an example of a law that has been written by a government that is directed by belief rather than proof. Constitutions should be adopted where proof is recognized as the only viable means by which a law can be produced, non?

And, on a personal note, in having gone through this re-examination of my own existence, I was aware of my attraction to men well before completing middle school. Was I confused by it? Hell yes! Would I have approached a teacher and asked questions about it? Hell no! But only because the language did not exist for me to do so.

Burnaby next time. It angers me more - but only because I can relate to it more.

And honestly, the result of this law in Tennessee is likely going to be beneficial. The backlash that will result, whenever it happens (and it may not be for twenty years), will force homosexual sex curriculum into the sexual curriculum of young peoples - a place that it has never held before. And, the reality is that homosexuality as a topic may be discussed in a middle or elementary school, but it isn't examined. Students can't comprehend sexuality at that age - they are just learning it. And teachers don't want to teach about homosexuality - it is a topic so few are familiar with, and a topic that they do not want to field questions about.

So, ultimately, this law is not going to change how education is practiced in the state of Tennessee. It will just formalize how it cannot be (and has not been) practiced, solidifying the curriculum in the early 90s until the state is forced by society to catch up to other parts of the states.

Once again, that could be twenty years from now - and there will be many lives hurt and lost in the interim - but the end result will be very, very beneficial for gay education in public schooling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More later

I am a teacher.

And if you've been following Saskatchewan's news at all recently, you'd surely know that I spent the past two days on strike.

I am a teacher.

And I am a gay man.

I am a gay teacher who happens to be a man.

I am a man who happens to be gay and a teacher.

I am a teacher who happens to be gay and a man.

I am not happy with my government. I don't know if I will be happy with them when an agreement is made regarding the funding of teachers in our province. I know that the current goals of teachers are unrealistic if only because the public thinks it is demanding too much - in reality, it is about where we should end up, if not aiming a little low. We won't end up there though. We will have to give up more than a third, maybe half, of what we want and deserve in a raise.

But I am not going to complain about politics. Or my job.

I am going to complain about being a teacher who happens to be a man who happens to be gay (which means I happen to like men).

Because education is a big part of where my heart is, and I am seeing it mix with sexuality in some pretty disastrous ways right now.

In Burnaby, B.C. (my future home). And the state of Tennessee (which I doubt is my future home).

More on both later.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am not a big fan of professional sports. If I were to construct my ideal world, they would likely not be on the list of things I would remember to reproduce. But I'd make sure athletes were included - and that these athletes were on my soccer team, or worked out at the gym that I work out at. I would hate to miss out on being around them.

But it is the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Vancouver is doing well. And I am Canadian, so I find myself interested in what is happening in sports. For some reason - and I assure you that I am pretty much completely confused about why. I asked somebody yesterday how the game went. I was working while it was happening, so I couldn't watch. Would I have anyways? No. Did it give me a momentary conversation topic? Yes. Did I know what the consequences of the game were? Yes. Mostly.

And then the past month has blown my mind. In sports. (Did I just type that? - who am I, and am I still lost in the world of that beautiful man that I have not yet seen again?)

(yes, I can confirm that I just wrote that. Weird)

One of the blogs I follow, Gay Persons of Colour, has been popping up on my dashboard for the past couple weeks with headlines like Dutch gymnast Jeffrey Wammes comes out, and Sean Avery endorses marriage equality with video. Sorry. What?

How about Carolina Panthers linebacker Nic Harris in support of marriage equality.

Pheonix Suns President Rick Welts comes out; players featured in pro-gay PSA.

San Francisco Giants to produce "It Gets Better" video.

Is this the same world of professional sports, filled with the same dumb-ass, homophobic jocks that I grew up with? The fans that I remember hating the idea that I may be gay?

I was out for a visit with some friends this evening. One of them is a former varsity basketball player - a lesbian who admitted that she hadn't watched a single professional basketball game since ending her basketball career years ago. And then she mentioned this story.

Joakim Noah directed a homophobic slur at a fan. Is getting fined for it, much like Kobe was (and as I mentioned in a previous post). But, unlike Kobe, Joakim has come to the press with a complete apology for his actions and words. He provided no excuses. He said his comments were bigoted and wrong. And that he apologizes for the ideas he seemed to be promoting.

Sorry, what?

This is a changing world, my friends. If we can reach some of the most popular leaders of male, misogynist culture, and make them leaders in the fight for marriage and social equality, we know that this is a different world.

And my friend, the former varsity player, has said that she is going to start watching professional sports again. Maybe. She feels like she has a place in it again, or for the first time.