I work (sometimes crazy long hours) in the gaybourhood. I play in the ghetto, too. But I’ve never lived here.
There are days – when stress shoots up into my shoulders and settles in a vice around my brain – when I want to not see another gay person ever again. Get me outta here, I whisper, and slink off to the subway with a scarf wrapped around my face.
But the “I vant to be alone” act is fake. I scan the streetcar for dykes despite myself, and smile when I spot a gay man talking to friends. The cynicism, exhaustion and grumpiness is always put aside. I still need my community – and I’ve spent long hours successfully trying to find it in Parkdale.
All just a reminder that no matter how lucky I am – working in a gay environment, in a gay neighbourhood, writing about my community -I’m a lesbian all the time. I still need community in all parts of my life, and not just during business hours.
University of Toronto professor Mariana Valverde, in a presentation to the CRTC last week, noted that gay men and lesbians are still surrounded by a heterosexist culture (see our story on page 18). We’re always struggling against it, even when we don’t consciously notice it.
Valverde’s comments were specifically about the media, and how we still don’t see ourselves in the mainstream. And how difficult that is.
I am reminded of my own reading habits. Both Canada’s national newspapers run a full page of obituaries every day. I read them from the bottom up, first looking to see if the deceased is survived by a same-sex partner.
The identifiable homosexuals are few and far between. Some were single; the secrets of others are never revealed. Some are kept in the closet by their eulogists.
The last big homo story on the front pages was that of the killer lesbians, the lovers who stabbed a Toronto police officer to death.
Yet I know there are regular gay people out there who live their lives as best they can – without spectacularly vicious behaviour. I see them every day. But not in the media.
The mainstream still doesn’t really understand that sexual orientation is important – that, in this culture, it matters.
That we want a casual aside about the personal life of the bank manager you’re interviewing; that the real estate dealer being quizzed on sales can be asked about trends in homo buyers; that the school teacher talking exam grades can look dykey.
We want to know about the personal life of the Vancouver Starbucks manager who died last month to save an employee from a man with a butcher knife who seemed determined to kill her.
It’s a stunning story. On Jan 29, 39-year-old Tony McNaughton intercepted the man, telling the woman to run away and save herself.
The manager was stabbed repeatedly. The woman’s estranged husband has been charged.
McNaughton was gay. His actions put those ridiculous stereotypes that equate girlie faggots with cowardice to rest. As if one’s manner or sexual orientation is somehow connected to strength of character.
Within three days’ of McNaughton’s horrible death, only The Globe And Mail thought his gayness important to mention.
It’s been ignored in his hometown. It took more than a week – a week! – before the Vancouver Sun brought it up. I can’t think of any other murder where a spouse or partner has been so willfully ignored. It’s sick.
The sorrow of the widow of the slain Toronto police officer could be seen everywhere. Support was instantaneous, from friend and stranger alike.
I want to find my community everywhere. I want those dense reporters and editors out there to “get it.” I want to hear, not just about the killer lesbians, but about the gay hero who died helping someone else.
Belfast-born Tony McNaughton became a Canadian citizen in October.
He loved martinis and mud face packs and line dancing. He once made his own doc, The Blair Bitch Project. And Xtra West reporter Tom Yeung adds that, if a friend he visited was as thoughtless as to leave a thin layer of dust atop his stereo speakers, McNaughton would leave a note behind simply reading ‘Pig.’
He insisted on wearing a crisp shirt and tie to work each day, conspicuous among his T-shirted employees. He loved to go out hiking, skiing and whitewater rafting, once hauling a pal out of the water after a potentially nasty mishap.
Tony McNaughton is survived by his partner of 12 years, Allen.
Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.