2 min

Remember this image

Harper laughs as gay man bashed

Credit: Xtra West files

You don’t get a clearer gaybashing than this. Gays crash a Conservative rally in my hometown, Guelph, Ontario. They want answers about the Conservative position on gay marriage. Instead, one gay man is punched by a Harper supporter.

Harper laughs. No apology. None.

Wow! What an unforgettable image. What a symbol for the entire campaign. Harper refuses to rule out a private member’s bill banning abortion. Harper hints he’ll use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to stop gay marriage and artistic freedom.

Worse, he rises in the polls as he gets more extreme.

Perhaps it’s only human that so many of us would turn inward, feel the fear that violent acts perpetuate. After the bashing, some community members began agitating for strategic voting this election, casting our ballots for whoever has the best chance of stopping Harper and his thugs in their tracks. Even our national lobby group, Egale, hit the panic button last week. They put out a media release calling on gays and lesbians to vote strategically to prevent a Conservative government (for a local riding-by-riding list of strategic voting options, see briefs on page 7).

Granted, the Conservatives are a scary bunch, and should not be mistaken for the longstanding Progressive Conservative party. Witness former PC leader Joe Clark’s claim that his party has been hijacked by Reform/Alliance activists. But, voting strategically just keeps us in our fear, keeps us in the mental space of a gay child who hides on the playground to avoid the bashers. There’s no genuine freedom, no vision of a better tomorrow, no hope for a truly better world when we’re trapped in a cycle of violence, self-defence and hiding from the bashers.

And politically, it’s self-defeating. It’s about settling, about defending only what’s already achieved. And I’ve never been good at settling. Neither has our community, and that’s why we have made such rapid progress on many of our issues.

Let’s dream large. Live even larger.

So, I encourage you to vote for your vision of a better world, whatever party you support. But I have to be frank: if you vote Conservative this time round, you’re voting for a party with more than its share of anti-abortion, anti-feminist and anti-gay MPs and activists. A party whose leader laughed as a gay man got bashed in front of him.

That’s an image that ought burn itself into our heads.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.