Why, I have to ask, are out gays running on the Stephen Harper ticket? Sure, there are closet gays, even in the Harper cabinet. I won’t name names because we don’t do that at Pink Triangle Press, but one in particular has participated in decisions that have hurt our community and yet has come to parties celebrating gay victories. How self-loathing does a person have to be to hang around with gays and lesbians and then announce decisions that hurt us?
Enough about that. Out gay Conservative candidate Chris Reid recently resigned from the race in Toronto’s gay village, in the riding of Toronto-Centre. Reid is a, shall we say, colourful personality who quit, citing an inability to commit for a full term, after public reports about postings to his Conservativeandgay blog. Canadians, he said, pointing to this summer’s beheading murder on a Greyhound bus have become “a castrated effeminate population.” And writing about queer Canadians: “What I found them to tolerate is promoting promiscuity, drug usage and prostitution.”
And check out the race in Vancouver Centre. Long-time Liberal MP Hedy Fry (who supported same-sex marriage rights but did nothing to help tame Canada Customs from discriminating against us) is facing off against gay Conservative candidate Lorne Mayencourt. He has a charming past as a two-term Liberal representative for the provincial riding that largely overlaps the federal riding. To get there, Mayencourt ran against a gay NDP cabinet minister, Tim Stevenson, who had achieved a series of provincial policy changes on behalf of the gay community. Many gays and lesbians in Vancouver’s West End, including friends of Mayencourt, were angry at being forced to choose between two high-profile gays; why couldn’t Mayencourt take a different riding and then there would be two out gays in the legislature, they wondered?
But Mayencourt beat Stevenson in a Liberal sweep and went on to, well, he went on to be perhaps the biggest disappointment ever among out gay Canadian politicians. It’s hard, really, to find anything he achieved for us. Even his safe-schools report, which he produced in 2003 with much accompanying rhetoric, didn’t actually do anything to make schools safer for kids by requiring changes from school boards. Mayencourt entered politics as a highly admired former founder of an AIDS and cancer support organization. But he’s morphed into a serious rightwinger, criticizing the safe injection site in downtown Vancouver and stick handling the province’s safe-streets legislation that is condemned by civil libertarians, human rights advocates and poverty activists.
Now, after accomplishing nothing for his gay and lesbian constituents, he wants us to join him on a new adventure working with the Harper team. Thing is, Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government may not care a fig about gays and our issues, but they’re also not hard-core homophobes. Many in the Harper government really do hate us and what we stand for. Vancouver Centre voters should consider voting for the candidate most likely to stop this guy.
It’s still unusual in Canada to see out gays run for a deeply conservative party. Research conducted by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy showed that just 7.2 percent of Canadian gay men and 10.4 percent of lesbians voted for the Harper Conservatives in 2006. They found that 35.8 percent of gays and lesbians combined voted Liberal and 33.3 percent voted NDP.
In the US, lesbians are overwhelmingly Democrat supporters, whereas gays are more divided, though leaning Democrat. Richard Goldstein, the brilliant gay journalist, coined the term ‘homocon’ to denote gays who support the radical rightwing politics adopted over the past couple of decades by the Republican Party.
“Most homocons actually oppose laws that prohibit discrimination against gay people,” he wrote in a 2002 essay for The Nation magazine. “And when it comes to sex, the gay right stands for a lifestyle that comes as close to the straight norm as it’s possible for homos to get.”
Referring to homocon blogger Andrew Sullivan’s motto, “virtually normal,” Goldstein writes, “This term conjures up an image of gay men and lesbians throwing off stereotypes, and in that sense it seems progressive. But the neat, discreet look that homocons favour is part of a larger crusade against the things that make gay people distinct. To be virtually normal is to present your gender in the customary way. The many variations that don’t fit this mould — bull dykes, sissies, trannies and fairies, to name just a few queer types — are an embarrassment to the gay right. And so are queers proudly known as ‘sluts,’ who don’t conform to the monogamous model. The gay right is not just an ideology; it’s an attitude toward difference. Homocons may pose as nonconformists, but they push a single, morally correct way to be gay.”
Remember, together we have enough votes to make a difference this election. Consider voting strategically, casting your ballot for the candidate in your riding who is most likely to beat the Conservative candidate. To help figure out who that candidate is, check out: Voteforenvironment.ca.