Now that the confetti has been cleared away it’s time to rub those bleary eyes and take a good look over the landscape. No, I’m not talking about a lingering post-New Year’s Eve hangover; I’m talking about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s failed attempt last year to reopen the same-sex marriage debate.
While it was beginning to feel like the issue that just wouldn’t die, it finally seems safe to hammer the final nail in that coffin. Oh, sure, we may end up having to exhume the bastard someday, but you know it’s safe to breathe easy when even Harper says, “I don’t see reopening this question in the future.”
“The result was decisive,” Harper told reporters in the wake of the 175 to 123 vote. Damn right it was. Time to move on.
But where do we go from here? With all of 2007 opening up before us, what is the collective will of queer Canadians? What are the battles looming on the horizon? For what are we girding our loins now? Oh, if only we had a national homo organization to look to, to be a lightening rod for our hopes and fears!
Oh, wait. There’s Egale Canada. True, it’s an organization seemingly in disarray, what with the largely unexplained departure of its last remaining full-time staff member, executive director Gilles Marchildon, late last year and a board that’s seen more turnover than a popular bathhouse at lunch hour (turn to page 12 for more).
For better or for worse, Egale staked its reputation on the same-sex marriage struggle. Now that the issue is resolved the lobby group appears to be floundering. But even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t be looking to the organization for leadership. When marriage became its bread and butter, Egale became synonymous with the struggle for respectability and alienated a whole lot of radical queers in the process. Now that marriage is no longer a rallying point it’s going to take time for it to outgrow its white picket fence pretensions.
I could almost hear the echoes of earlier debates as I read a recent opinions piece in the homo paper the Washington Blade. In his list of “ideas for furthering the gay rights movement in 2007,” Paul Varnell includes a call to drop the word “queer” from the activist vocabulary.
“Some younger gays full of youthful rebellion-without-responsibility adopted ‘queer’ for a time, viewing it as ‘edgy’ and ‘in your face,'” writes Varnell. “But let me tell you, dear ones, gay liberty and equality are not going to be won by being self-indulgently ‘edgy’ and ‘in your face.’ You are just helping our opponents.”
Take a leaf out of our book, dear one. As Canadian homos are learning, the trouble with fighting for respectability is that once you’ve achieved it you have to keep on being respectable. As many a 1950s housewife will tell you, there’s nothing so constrictive and suffocating as the confines of the white picket fence.
With Egale in the midst of regrouping and reinventing itself there’s certainly room for other groups of activists to step up to the plate. In the meantime there are a slew of queer issues that need attending to. In Toronto we need to be fighting against homophobia within local institutions like the police force (turn to page 5 for more) and in our school systems. In Ontario we need sex reassignment surgery to be added back to the list of medical procedures covered by OHIP. All over the country we need affordable housing; homelessness affects queer youth and seniors disproportionately. We need supports for homos living out and coming out in rural communities, far from the plethora of services available to us here in the big city.
My thoughts on furthering the movement in 2007? It’s time for all the would-be activists who were put off by marriage to step up to the plate. Pick an issue that hits you close to home and get off your ass to do something about it. There’re tons of organizations out there in need of your time and energy (turn to page 35 for ideas). Sucker for a fixer-upper? Give fresh blood to Egale. And above all else, never settle for respectable.