Toronto
2 min

No apology for ‘fag boy’ ad

Sioux Lookout lesbian battles the OPP

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Sioux Lookout has a transient population. Credit: Xtra files

Queers in Sioux Lookout have been keeping a low profile.



“I felt when I was growing up that there was no gay community,” says Stephanie St Amande. “In high school I thought I was the only one.”



She knew people were saying that she was a lesbian behind her back, but no one in the small town just northwest of Thunder Bay confronted her.



“There were rumours but no one was saying anything about it to your face,” says St Amande, now living in Winnipeg.



St Amande finally came out when she went away. From a distance, she gave back to the town what she hadn’t had – an accessible community.



She created a website for the town queers complete with listings of upcoming events in surrounding areas and a message board that let people discuss anonymously what they didn’t feel they could say in person. (It’s at www.geocities.com/westhollywood/stonewall/2301.)



It was hard to get the word out, but as people learned about it, the site helped bring together the fledgling community.



Then last February the issue erupted onto the pages of the weekly newspaper, the Sioux Lookout Bulletin, when an OPP officer placed a birthday greeting to a colleague.



“Happy birthday fag boy,” read the notice, alongside a photo of the officer. “We mourn the death of your youth.”



“During that episode there were some awful comments,” says St Amande, referring to anonymous postings left on her website. “That’s when the backlash started.”



Susan Williams, a paramedic who came to Sioux Lookout on a short-term contract and fell in love with small town living, led an organized response against the officers involved in the prank.



“I alleged that their actions had damaged the image of the OPP,” says Williams. “That the conduct of the officer resulted in a lack of trust and fear of the police by the gay and lesbian community in Sioux Lookout.”



She filed a formal complaint accusing those involved with conduct unbecoming an officer. The investigator assigned to the case allegedly trivialized the incident, calling it a “brain fart.” So Williams put in a complaint against the investigator.



The paper defended the decision to print the notice. “Fag boy is a common and legitimate term used by school kids to denote a member of their group who gets stuck doing drudge work for older students,” read the anonymous editorial. “No sexual connotation of any kind is involved.”



But after continued pressure, including a critical editorial in the Thunder Bay Chronicle, an apology was printed.



Although the issue hasn’t been resolved, many of those involved have left town.



“It’s a very transient community,” says Williams. “People come up here for career reasons, do their time and leave.”



She remembers that when she arrived, she wanted people to get to know her and not her sexual orientation.



“This whole fag boy thing is the first time I’ve actually stood up and said yes I am,” she says. “And that’s with over 13 years of living here.”