When truly great change is in the offing, some symbol usually appears to stand as a marker of the impending era.
For some, the change in dates from 999 to 000 says it all.
For others, it’s the supposed increase in sightings of unidentified flying objects, the millennial terrorist threats of a madman or the mass suicide of cultists.
For me, it’s nothing so grandiose in this final days of 1999, as we move into the final 12 months of the millennium. Sometimes, it’s an accumulation of small things that signifies true change. Profound change. Or at least the tantalizing promise of unknown potential.
I am an optimistic man by nature. And, at least as far as the creation of a gay-positive, love-positive world is concerned, I think we’ve made truly astounding moves in the last years of this century.
I look to Supreme Court Of Canada pronouncements that recognized our rights as queer individuals and as loving partners. I see my friends granted perhaps decades of life by a combination of AIDS drugs. I see the spread of gay culture around the globe. I see the very concept of gender challenged by an emerging generation of activists. I see people discovering – and inventing – sex-positive alternatives to tired Christian dogma.
So much is happening so fast. Looking ahead, I sense this will be the year when we start to make our community over in our own image.
And it will be the year that issues about representations of ourselves become writ large in the court system. Robin Sharpe will argue in the New Year that he has the right to represent his thoughts on paper, an argument long made by our community. (You don’t need to like, or even respect Sharpe to understand the importance of his case to your community’s right – and every Canadian’s right – to represent our own thoughts, erotic or not.)
Then comes Little Sister’s challenge of Canada Customs. They’re fighting for the rights of gays and lesbians to represent our lives in words and images without state interference. And there will be a court case over the Surrey School Board’s banning of vaguely gay-positive books from the classroom.
Finally, this will be the year when our community is challenged to fight back proposals to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 from the current age of 14. Raising the age will make a criminal of any 17-year-old in love with a 14-year-old or 15-year-old sex partner. Surely, enough of us can remember our own teenage lust and love well enough to get together and spike this idiocy!
It’s going to be a fun-filled year. A challenging year both locally and nationally. A year to tax our donations dollar. And to bring out a whole new generation of activists, to link hands with old-timers, as we claim our landscape in this country, particularly our legal landscape in Ottawa.
Have a wonderful New Year’s.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra West.