3 min

In youth’s image

Young continue rights battle in their own image

Time to get out the short-shorts and strut for Pride.

We’ve got a lot to celebrate. Many of our goals from the last two generations can now be checked off, human rights laws for gays and lesbians chief among them.

I’m most impressed with the new generation of activists, many of them still in high school, increasingly members of cultural minorities. They’re using cogent, often sophisticated arguments to persuade others, including school board trustees, to help them build a better world. Even when that world conflicts with their own parents’ views.

I had trouble arguing against my parents at home as a teenager, let alone taking on their views at a school-board meeting.

The new activists have their own priorities, as should each generation of active citizens, though it’s also important that they learn from our collective history. They want to change the world to reflect their views of freedom and equality, adding new layers of flesh to the bones of Canada’s great Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet, perhaps in keeping with our time, most I’ve spoken with don’t even consider themselves activists but rather just people caught up in something they consider important.

Of course, that’s exactly what an activist is — and why so many in our community have always been activists regardless of our individual comfort with the label.

So, yes, we’ve made much progress for many in our communities to live comfortable lives. And yes, the next generation continues to make its own progress.

But our struggle for our day in the sun is not over.

Until kids grow up not being bullied, until students are routinely taught a gay-inclusive curriculum, our battles will not be over.

Until gay teachers are not under pressure to remain closeted. Until King George Secondary School is renamed after Jane Rule.

Until the “homosexual panic defence” can no longer be used to get a light sentence for murder. Until police and the Crown vigorously investigate and prosecute gaybashings and routinely invoke the hate-crime designation at trial.

Until trans people have recognition of their rights and free access to surgery.

Until threesomes are legal. Until Canada Customs loses its power to seize anything it wants at the border (even material that would be legal if produced in Canada). Until government stops trying to censor or control every new technology, including the internet.

Until there is a free vaccine for AIDS. Until rational science and harm reduction is at the heart of all health policy and practice.

Until seniors’ residences respect sexual orientation and allow residents to have sex.

Until government funding treats gay tourism and queer arts and culture as worthy.

Until society embraces sexuality and gender as just facets of who people are — admittedly complicated, but desirable facets that pose no risk to anyone.

Until, in short, church and state have been pushed back from regulating people’s choices and imposing morality, and the Christian heritage is wiped from our legal codes.

And until countries around the world, including the particularly homophobic former British colonies, recognize sex- and gender-based rights and freedom for all — our work will not be done.

This will take a while, of course. Gays and lesbians, and others who bend the borders of desire, will not be free until people overcome their individual and collective fear of sexuality.

Fear of sexuality, and gender difference, is deeply wired in Western culture and the world’s three major religions. Gays and lesbians, specifically our sexual expression, are the personification of that fear, the monster under the bed if you will.

I know this work will continue here and internationally as successive generations engage with our issues, add to the list, and go about changing the world in their image.

And that excites me, not least because after 15 years at Pink Triangle Press as an editor, publisher, producer and engagement director, I’m moving on in my day job, seeking and welcoming new challenges in meaningful work.

I move on with the spirit of Pride: celebrating who and what I am — who we are — and at the same time committed to doing my bit in my spare time to continue building community. Happy Pride, Vancouver! See you around.