It’s tradition to start the new year by taking some time to reflect on the past and to look forward to the year ahead. On a personal level, many of us are thinking about how much weight to lose, money to save, sex to have, or exercise to get. We’re thinking about how many friendships we’d like to build this year and with whom, and we’re looking for opportunities to seize.
On top of these critical decisions, homos across Canada are also challenged in the first weeks of 2006 to sift through a myriad list of politicians and political issues in the quest to make an informed decision on how best to cast their votes.
I want my own puny, pink vote to be well-spent.
All the issues we’ve highlighted in our election coverage in Xtra West are important to me as a queer man, but I want the person I vote for to know about a couple of other things that rankle me too.
Canadian Blood Services still discriminates against gay men by preventing them from ever donating blood. If you’re a man who has had any kind of sexual contact with another man even once since 1977, it’s forbidden for you to donate lifesaving blood. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played safe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been tested. It doesn’t matter if your blood is as pure as the driven snow. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a universal donor who has been celibate and sealed in a plastic bubble since Elvis played Vegas. Your queer blood is simply not straight enough.
This isn’t just better safe than sorry. Every donor is questioned about high-risk behaviours. Every drop of blood collected is tested for blood-borne pathogens. Samples that yield positive or non-specific results are rejected.
Excluding all queer men from blood donation is blood libel pure and simple. It’s a manifestation of the widely-held fiction that sodomites are dirty. It’s half heartedly disguised as science, but it is really values-based institutionalized discrimination.
I want to cast my vote for a politician who understands that.
Another issue I want my MP to care about is the decriminalization of marijuana.
Frankly, this hasn’t been top of mind for me over the last few years. I like getting stoned for shits and giggles as much as the next guy, but I’ve never had a problem either finding weed or getting caught with it. I’ve often thought it is incongruous for our government to worry about weed while booze and smokes are so readily available, but there are a lot of things I don’t understand, so whatever.
What changed for me this year is the arrest and possible extradition to the US of pot activist and politician Marc Emery for allegedly selling pot seeds to American customers.
If convicted by an American court, Emery could be sentenced to life in prison. His extradition hearing is set for Feb 13.
The Bush administration is engaged in torture. It has declared war on an abstract noun and rushed to arms in various parts of the world. It has refused to deal fairly with Canada on trade issues. It has refused to participate fully in world climate change agreements. It won’t allow HIV-positive Canadians to visit. Gay sex can still get you thrown in jail in parts of the US.
The Bush administration presides over the most socially unfair and prejudicial society in the western world. Black people in the US are eight times as likely to contract HIV, five times as likely to do time in prison, and three times as likely to be functionally illiterate than are white Americans.
Canadian and American laws may wind up conspiring to make Emery’s extradition possible, but no law can be just so long as it is absolute. I want my MP to work to ensure that Emery is not extradited, that he is allowed to continue his social activism in Canada, and that Republican American moral values do not influence Canadian jurisprudence or politics.
What next, extradition of queer activists?