Harmen Boersma’s article, “A Test of Trust”, ostensibly promoted North Grenville unity. Instead, his arguments against Pride flags at the township office betrayed a divisive insensitivity.
He falsely claimed that “the LGBT [community] was a suppressed minority 75 years ago, but since it has been given civic ‘liberty’ in 1969, the movement has changed from a suppressed minority to a vocal sub-culture touting a new identity theory or ideology known as genderism.” This is not only untrue, it is completely antithetical to the term’s actual meaning. “Genderism” is the reactionary conviction that humans must be exclusively male or female. It is used to justify discrimination against those who are non-conforming or transgender, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Mr. Boersma’s ridicule of the spectrum of gender identities both dismisses the current medical consensus, and ignores the intense suffering experienced by people who do not fit his gender-binary expectations.
As a gay man, I’m offended by his implication that LGBTQ oppression is ancient history. While our civil (not civic) rights were entrenched in Canadian law in 1969, that certainly didn’t bring an end to either systemic or individual homophobia, any more than civil rights legislation ended the hateful faces of racism. I can personally attest to experiences of intolerance, bullying, physical violence, and being labelled “sinner” by self-righteous conservative Christians, who base their judgements upon unscholarly misinterpretations of the Bible.
When my fiancé, Allan Rae, and I moved to North Grenville two years ago, we were nervous about whether we’d be accepted as a gay couple. The township’s first Pride celebration definitely helped us feel accepted here. For us, Pride is about self-respect, living openly in a culture which often seems to wish we were straight. Pride means we believe our sexual orientation should never be prefaced with an apology, never censored, and never cloaked with a cowardly-constructed mask of societal expectations.
Since virtually all major towns and cities fly Pride flags, Mr. Boersma’s insistance that NG not do so sends profoundly negative messages. His article was a simplistic attempt to deflect attention from the concerns of marginalized people, but the LGBTQ community will not allow our voices to be silenced.
We applaud Mayor Peckford and the council’s support. It is to be hoped that the ingenious idea of adding more flagpoles will finally end the thinly-veiled homophobia of anti-Pride grousing.
(retired priest of the Anglican Church of Canada)