One accused murderer of Aaron Webster was charged last week; more charges-perhaps three more-are coming. But this is not the time for closure. Not by a long shot.
There cannot be closure until Webster’s killers are in jail. Not until our community has joined with other communities to profoundly-yes, profoundly-change the way policing happens in this city. Not until the provincial government has forced all school boards to educate our children against homophobia-not just against bullying but against the causes of bullying-and created committees of queers to advise the boards about our issues.
Not until we’ve built a major memorial to Aaron Webster in the park (fundraising calendars are still for sale at Little Sister’s). And not until we’ve made it safe to cruise in Stanley Park without fear of bashers.
Then, and only then, can our community’s leaders talk about “closure”, whatever the hell that is. We owe it to Aaron, to ourselves, and to the queer kids now entering kindergarten.
It’s no coincidence, those of us in Vancouver’s gay community know, that the alleged basher comes from suburban Burnaby. It’s no coincidence that the people charged in the Gastown lesbian-bashing of last year were from Surrey and Delta. Kids in the burbs are taught, carefully taught, to hate us.
We’ve got to address that. Most of us have our hopes pinned on Lorne Mayencourt’s committee, which will address that very issue in a report on bullying due out next week. All publicly funded schools must be made to teach that gay is good.
In the meantime, let’s remember that in this country people are innocent until proven guilty. The police have had their eyes on a certain group of youth for months. But the onus is on the prosecution to prove its case, and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Witnesses are still sought (if you know something, call Det Faoro at 604.717.2519).
There’s been a discussion in one local paper about gays fighting back against bashers. One man, after being attacked, picked up a fire extinguisher at a limousine window to stop the car from driving away. Police aren’t happy.
I say “tough shit.”
We have the right to defend ourselves as individuals and as a community. It’s the job of cops to charge the basher, not the man who defended himself or smashed a window to stop a car until police arrived.
In US cities, chapters of “pink pistols” have sprouted. Gays and lesbians buy guns and learn to protect themselves by taking target practice together. Some have used their weapons. I’m glad to live in a land where that seems too extreme. I’m glad our gay community wants to put the emphasis on making sure that policing works for everybody, regardless of sexuality, race, income, whether they are a prostitute, and so on. Yet, regardless of what we do collectively to improve policing, each individual has the right to protect themselves when society fails to do so.
We cannot see ourselves as victims who will remain passive while being beaten or killed. Identifying as victims only attracts more bashers. We must let potential bashers know that we will protect ourselves-and each other.
And then we must do so. By helping other gays under attack. By writing down licence plates of cars belonging to verbal and physical bashers and reporting them to police. And by throwing one fire extinguisher at a time, as necessary.
And demanding the cops charge the basher, not the target.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.