When a young RCMP officer in Hamilton arrested a man who made a pass at him in a porno palace this summer, my boss suggested doing a story. Were cute, young Mounties being used, perhaps, as some sort of hazing ritual, to entrap gay cruisers? But thanks to machinations of police PR, it’s almost impossible to determine if that’s what is happening.
Police officers can claim a whole range of motivations when they choose to investigate something – and they’re not going to tell you the nasty homophobic ones. Police politics in this country becomes a game where individuals and groups claim, “You’re picking on us,” with the police replying, “The thought never entered our heads!”
But sometimes we can deduce motives. There may not be a paper trail, but there is a record of public action, which often doesn’t match the spin.
Obviously Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino wants to look like a friend to fags; why else would he appear on the cover of Fab magazine, all smiles and congeniality? But from that we can’t conclude that he really wants to be a friend. Showing up for a photo shoot, a church service or a ball game has nothing to do with how he actually has treated gay men and lesbians during his career as a police chief.
For example, apologizing for the Pussy Palace raid, for his gay-demonizing Project Guardian when he was chief in London or even for the rudeness of his officers when they inspect gay bars are duties I’d expect a newly gay-positive chief to perform. Fantino’s done none of them. By observing the gap between his words and actions we can describe his motives for the photo-op as crassly political, perhaps even devious.
I doubt the governing Liberals under Paul Martin care very much about same-sex marriage, even though, judging by the Supreme Court Of Canada hearings, they are now its strongest advocates. I think it’s just that they have only two options – permit it or stop it. Having decided against stopping it, they have taken the high road in order to make the Conservatives look bad. Given the opportunity to handle the issue like, say, abortion regulations – walk away and leave it in legal limbo – I think they’ll take it. Martin’s comments seem like pure spin, the rare time he makes any.
We all give reasons for our behaviour that’s good PR, if not necessarily true. The other night I called up an old flame, inviting him over to watch a movie; I wanted to have sex with him. He came over immediately, which I thought meant that he understood what the invitation was all about. I mean – my TV is in my bedroom. But he really wanted to watch a movie; what I took for his horniness was no more than boredom. As a strategy, I hid my motives – I was worried that he’d find it tacky if I made a flat-out sex invite – and my plan backfired.
Consider the sex date that turns into a date date. Based on past experience with a guy, I meet him expecting a little bit of boinking, only to find myself bound for a romantic dinner and movie. I go along with it because, on reflection, perhaps I did want more than sex. But how much more is hard to say.
There’s the rub; our motivations can be hidden even to ourselves. Half the time we don’t know what we want, or admit it.
What matters is the result of our actions and it’s here where we can hold our leaders and ourselves accountable. When police officers visit a porn palace several times a day, what matters is that they’re killing a cruising area, erasing gay space, curtailing sexual freedoms. What they claim they’re doing matters much less.
Equality under law from the federal Liberals? Probably a good thing. Pointless arrests? That’s a bad thing. Hypocrisy exposed? A good thing. Sex instead of love, friendship instead of sex – why not?
Paul Gallant is Managing Editor for Xtra.