Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1000 Words On Why I Give A Fuck

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I’m about to say, how to channel all of my anger and frustration and rage and turn it into something concrete, something sensible, something that sums up my feelings on the issue while presenting a concise, mature argument. Something that, in short, says what I need to say.

Here I go.

As a woman, I wouldn’t have been considered a Person in Alberta until 1917. In Canada, until 1929. Which means that, federally, my grandmother didn’t become a person until the year that she turned 15.  She lived 14 full years before she counted.

I’ve been a person my entire life. I’ve possessed the rights of a Canadian citizen, and in 7 years I’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of women becoming people in a country that, on some days, I am incredibly proud to call my home.

I’ve never been a prideful person when it comes to my country. I didn’t choose it, nor did I choose my history. However, this country is my home, and I owe my rights to women and men who came decades before me; Women and men who fought for the rights I now reap the benefits of every day.

I can vote. I can own property. I can hold a job.  I have the rights that every Canadian citizen possesses.

I am also heterosexual. I like the dudes. Especially the tall ones. The slightly gangly ones. The nerdy ones. The ones who are super manly with the facial hair. Except less super manly, and more just facial-hairy.  I am also fortunate enough to know a fairly ridiculous number of incredible, intelligent, kind, and awe-inspiring men and women who are, have always been, and will forever be homosexuals.

Yes, I am of the belief that sexuality, sexual orientation, sexual preference, however you would like me to describe it, it is not a choice. It is who we are. I didn’t choose one day to be heterosexual, but I am. Likewise, I cannot choose to be homosexual. It’s the way I believe things work.

In 1977, sexual orientation was added in to the Quebec Human rights act.  It was not until nine years later, in 1986, that Ontario followed suit, and it would be another ten years after that before the government of Canada included Sexual Orientation within the Canadian Human Rights Act. 19 years after the province of Quebec passed a law defending the rights of its homosexual citizens, the Canadian government followed suit.

It wasn’t until 14 years ago that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer individuals in Canada had explicitly federally protected rights. 

I get frustrated when people ask why I’m on the Pride Calgary Planning Committee, why Pride is important, why, as a heterosexual individual, I care about gay rights. It doesn’t directly affect me, after all, so why do I really care? And, beyond that, why do they care? Why do they have to make a fuss about it? If a Civil Union grants the same rights as a Marriage, what’s the difference, right?

I know with relative certainty that, in the next ten years, should I choose to marry the Man of My Geeky Dreams, I could. Many of my friends don’t have that same confidence. Same-sex marriage has only been legalized nation-wide for Canadians for five years. Not even five full years.  And given that Canada currently has a Conservative government, the gay marriage question is, unfortunately, still a question.

I don’t want to get in to the government vs faith debate on this issue. I’m not here to talk about same-sex marriage and why I think it’s not only okay, but something to be celebrated. What I need to say is this: people across our country, and people around the world, have fought and continue to fight daily for the rights they have.

Gay citizens of Canada fought hard to get where they are now, and we all know that every day there is the chance that someone is going to try to take those rights away. And I’ve heard the argument too many times that the label of “marriage” shouldn’t be so important, and if “they” just let it go, the issue would be dropped; the fight would be over.

The thing is, the fight isn’t over. If we tell one group of people- any group of people- that it’s okay to give them rights and then take them away, then we’re saying that we can do that to any one, at any time, and all we have to do is invoke our prejudices, our ignorance, or our faith to do it.

When Prop 8 was passed in California, revoking the rights of same-sex couples to marry, the precedence was set for the rest of the world to take one giant step back. It said that there are millions of people in the world who think that it is okay to take away the rights of their friends, their family, their coworkers, neighbours, and yes, strangers. It said that rights are something that are up for negotiation.

So here it is, why I’m on the PCPC, why I get so upset when people, friends included, are attacked or harassed on the basis of their apparent flamboyance or sexuality, why it matters, why I give a fuck:

Gay rights are human rights.  End of story.

We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future." - Solzhenitsyn

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