It’s a question I keep hearing: why is Pride so important? The argument against Pride is simple: sure, we are still fighting for certain rights, like getting transgender rights enshrined in the Human Rights Act, but gays are mainstream, and nobody really cares who you are and what you do — that’s all history.
Well, no. That’s not quite true.
Last month I wrote a cute story about a little museum that is widely overlooked by Ottawa residents. A member of the staff contacted me about an upcoming exhibition and two tidbits they felt might be of interest to our readers.
One was a stretch — an obscure person had a brother who was gay. Hmmm. I didn’t bite.
The other bit was a little more tantalizing. The museum staffer told me John McCrae, who wrote the poem “In Flanders Field,” might have written it for his possible/probable/maybe male lover.
The story passed unnoticed in Xtra. No one uttered a peep — no one commented online. I can only assume that readers were ho-hum about the news: the dude’s dead, he may have had a male lover, so what?
Not so in the mainstream news. Some intrepid reporter leapt at the notion that, horrors upon horrors, someone had dared to cast a cloak of homosexuality on a Canadian war hero. It must be stopped!
The story turned into a scandal, a controversy that sent the media, dilettante historians and seemingly everyone into a homophobic spiral: “If McCrae was alive to hear this, I’m sure he’d be apoplectic,” said one. And another: “You have to be responsible. I had a grandfather killed in France. To see those thousands of graves and know we endeavour to hold high that torch — well, why would a museum do this?”
The little story about the little museum made news from Ottawa to Guelph (and many places in between) and continued to spin a month after the initial story.
As the furor grew in strength, a more insidious form of homophobia sneaked in — the apology.
The museum’s director wrote a letter to the Ottawa Citizen saying, “I am concerned with any intimations of the museum’s disrespect. We concur with all Canadians in lauding McCrae as a distinguished poet, army officer and physician.”
Now it’s disrespectful to think someone is homosexual?
This is why we have Pride. This is why we have to keep on marching: no matter how much is behind us, how many obstacles we have torn down, how many laws have been amended, there is still so much to do.
Slipping into the mainstream doesn’t work — gay-straight alliances will still be banned in Catholic schools, gaybashings will still occur and transgender rights will never be included in the Human Rights Act.
No, we have to keep on marching. We have to flaunt it, strut it proudly and embrace who we are. Then one day, when another little story is written suggesting that a Canadian hero/heroine may have had a same-sex lover, no one will utter a peep, because no one will give a damn.