Toronto
3 min

Lathering us up

It's been a honeymoon with the Canadian media

ATTENTION GETTING. CNN wanted video feed of the marriage of Toronto City Councillor Kyle Rae and artist Mark Reid at the O'Connor Gallery in Toronto last week. Credit: Xtra files

Nothing,
it seems, gets social conservatives foaming at the mouth quite as much as
equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or the transgendered. Now we pushy
queers have stormed the bastions of the blessed state of matrimony. The media
in Canada appears quite willing to assist in making the foam denser and
certainly frothier. After all, what is a wedding without a bit of froth?




While media here in Alberta -where Premier Ralph Klein is threatening the
notwithstanding clause to avoid recognizing same-sex marriage – can be
characterized as conservative, much of the hard news and feature articles on
this subject have been objective and fair.




For example, a Jun 19 Edmonton Journal piece on Keith Purdy and his partner
Rick Kennedy,


who have applied for a marriage licence in an attempt to force the Klein
government’s hand, had


a definite slant of approval. If it didn’t go so far as to advocate equal
marriage, the article certainly showed an understanding that these are two men
who love each other. And the large quarter-page story on page A3 featured a
sweet picture of Purdy and Kennedy exchanging a kiss. That’ll get a few mouths
a-foamin’.




Right below that story, there was a piece on Edmonton activist Liz Massiah and
her long-time partner Anna Hanschar, who are prepared to wait for Alberta to be
forced to allow same-sex marriage rather than go to Ontario to be legally
married or force Alberta to act themselves. Set against all this resistance,
it’s interesting that the article quotes a 1999 poll of 1,300 Albertans, 51
percent of whom supported same-sex marriage.




A half-page article in the Jun 20 Globe And Mail featured a piece on Mark and
Craig Stumpf-Allen, an Edmonton couple who had a blessed union eight years ago.
They consider themselves married, but “having the government convinced we’re
married just doesn’t mean anything to us.”




This variety of voices is something that shows the mainstream media, at least
in this country, doesn’t expect all gay and lesbian people to have the same
reaction to the topic. It’s surprising, given mainstream media’s tendency to
engage in easily digestible snippets of news, that papers like the Globe and
the Journal have tried to show our diversity.




The letters to the editor are always fun. A letter writer named Jason Victor
had this to say in the Calgary Sun:




“Ontario has been a melting pot where almost anything goes, as long as you have
the ability to make sense of what you want to present, be it sensible or not
sensible.” I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, but at any rate, he is
in favour of Klein and proud to be an Albertan because “we have


a strong sense of family in this province.” Suggesting, I suppose, that Ontario
and other decadent provinces don’t.




Naturally, in such an emotionally-charged environment, readers are also treated
to gems like this from a Peter Horsley who wrote to The Calgary Herald:




“I wonder why lesbians and gay men don’t seek out each other for partners. Both
would have what they claim to desire gender-wise, along with the right
equipment.”




Seems to me someone failed to sees the forest for the trees.




Thankfully, such tripe is somewhat balanced out by reasoned and thoughtful
letters of support from queer and straight alike. Offhand, I’d say most letters
to the editor I’ve seen are in favour of recognizing same-sex marriage.




There are times, though, when one wonders what reporters are thinking. Why, for
example, would a journalist seek out quotes from someone like John McKellar,
the self-styled executive director of an interesting little group called
Homosexuals Opposed To Pride Extremism (HOPE)?




McKellar is quoted in the Jun 20 Calgary Herald, saying it is “selfish and
rude” and “self-indulgent” for a “tiny self-anointed clique” of homosexuals to
push for same-sex marriage. McKellar reinforces the social conservatives’ claim
that


the queer community is a mere speck on the demographic window of Canada; that
“the reality of the situation” is that only two to four percent of the
population is gay or lesbian. He then goes on to insist that “[w]ithin that two
to four percent minority, less than one percent are interested in same-sex
marriage or even domestic partnership legislation.”




Though I think he’s way off base, these kind of statements can launch
discussions in the mainstream media about how lesbians and gay men live their
lives and conduct their relationships. And these discussions have been a long
time coming. Virtually every article I’ve read mentions the number of years a
given couple has been together – a detail many straight people have probably
never thought of. I hope this will lead to discussions of the dynamics of
same-sex relationships, coupled or otherwise, thereby shedding some of the
mystery and misinformation about our lives that currently abound in the popular
mind.




* Stephen Lock is an Alberta activist, freelance writer and broadcaster. He is
Egale Canada’s regional director for the Prairie/NWT/ Nunavut Region.