This spring, I worked with a number of energetic, passionate people to rally around Premier Dalton McGuinty’s peekaboo sex ed curriculum for Ontario schools — a framework his Liberals introduced, then pulled, largely owing to the bleating of evangelical lobbyist Charles McVety.
In some ways, it was really, really disheartening. To watch McGuinty throw good policy under the bus, based on the complaints of a nutter and misinformation disseminated at lightning speed — well, that was unpleasant.
Watching my friends, lovers and peers fight back, on the other hand, was fantastic. In the first days, Ariel Troster, Brent Creelman and I launched a Facebook page, which quickly garnered several thousand supporters. We followed up with a letter-writing campaign. Gradually, our effort merged with that of others who were agitating on the same subject, and for several weeks we kept up public pressure.
We were not, in the end, successful. The sex ed curriculum was not implemented in Ontario this fall.
However, another project I worked on for several years had better luck in 2010. After helping to found (and with Xtra at one point helping to fund) The Village Project, I had the pleasure of working with first-rate folks like Glenn Crawford, Ian Capstick, Bonnie McDougall, Bruce Bursey and Hershel Kagan. We quickly raised $10,000.
This August, I was over the moon when the first street signs with rainbow insignia were cut for Bank St.
I’m really proud of both groups, even though neither has completely achieved its goals. After all, sometimes registering our hopes (or our dissent) is the best we can do.
But both projects show that the work of changing our world is not just open to professional agitators, or people who belong to lobbying outfits. It’s open to anyone with a computer, anyone who can rally a handful of people to a monthly meeting.
While there is a lot to be said for coalition-building, working groups and organizational heft, the heavy lifting in Ottawa is done mostly by individuals. In that respect, our communities are volunteer-driven. (I’m an anomaly, a professional gay agitator with a megaphone. The very best of us in Ottawa are unpaid.)
Over the next month, Xtra will be collecting the names of those people our communities are most grateful for. As we’ve done for years, we will ask our readers to single out those people who’ve taken extraordinary steps this year to make Ottawa a better place.