A lesbian couple in Kingston, Ontario, is worried for their safety after receiving two chilling letters this week instructing them to move out of the city or else group members will “hunt [them] down.”
Karen Dubinsky and her partner Susan Belyea, who got the letters on July 17, are calling the messages “surreal, ugly and disturbing.” The writer vows it to be the first of many similar letters, “each escalating to higher and higher levels of harassment and derailment.”
The first letter, addressed to “Lesbian bitches,” goes on to say, “We are a small but dedicated group of Kingston residents devoted to removing the scourge of homosexuality in our city. We know you and have been following you for the past several weeks and we wish for you to leave this city, before it is too late, for you.” (Read the full letter.)
Dubinsky, who is a professor at Queen's University in the department of global development studies, says the letters did not address the couple by name or make any reference to them personally, such as acknowledging that the couple has a child together or where they work. Her partner, Belyea, is a food security advocate and the former executive director of Kingston food group Loving Spoonful.
There was nothing in the letters that couldn’t be sent to any other lesbian in Kingston,” she says. “The whole thing is just very surreal.”
Dubinsky, who has no idea who sent the letters, called Kingston Police and filed a report. She says police are now investigating the matter to find the source. Xtra could not reach Kingston Police for comment.
Bizarrely, the letter writer offers a financial incentive if the couple takes the initiative to move away, and a bonus is they encourage "another couple like yourselves" to move to “Vancouver or San Francisco” as well.
The second letter goes further, claiming to have armed the young people in their group with bb guns to “hunt you down.”
On one hand the letter is completely absurd, she says. At the same time, it’s terrifying. The letter-writer states that he “has been watching them for weeks.”
The letter goes on to say the group has been “energized by the recent US Supreme Court decisions legalizing same sex marriage.” Group members feel that “unless homosexuals reconvert to heterosexuality that life under this planet, under the umbrella of our Lord Jesus Christ, will become unbearable.” The group also claims to have a head office in the “Deep South.”
Dubinsky and Belyea have lived in Kingston for almost eight years, and in the same house for five years, she says. But Dubinsky says they are an unlikely choice to target because neither would call themselves “gay activists.”
“We are not the most connected to the gay community in town,” she says. “If they wanted to go after the person who is a high profile or a spokesperson in the gay community, it wouldn’t be us. We’re out, but we’re not high-profile gay people in town.”
On July 19, the letters were posted by a local straight ally on Imgur.com, an online image hosting service that lets users post pictures without logging in. The person who posted the letters writes that Kingston's local HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) has recently been targeted by bb gun shots through their windows recently. Xtra could not reach HARS for comment.
“Needless to say, I've lost my faith in humanity,” she writes.
Throughout the day, the letters went viral on social media, racking up more than 160,000 views. That evening, Dubinsky and Belyea invited friends and neighbours to their house to show the author of the letter that they can't be intimidated.
This is the not the first incident of homophobia in Kingston recently. The Kingston Whig-Standard reports that anti-gay posters were posted downtown prior to the city’s Pride Month flag-raising ceremony. City workers removed the posters before commencing the ceremony, and Kingston Police officers were on hand for security.