Bans, Boycotts and Where Do We Go From Here? I

Posted by Wayves volunteer 26/10/2016

By Hugo Dann

PART ONE: Crisis What Crisis?


Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

                                                                                                   -- JAMES BALDWIN

Dearly loved Queer/Trans Communities, family and friends!

Let's all pause for a moment and take a deep breath and, before we do anything else, let's all acknowledge that, despite what we may have heard in the media, the current conflict in our community of communities is far from being the greatest crisis we have faced in 25 years.

We survived The Great Shirtlessness Debate, we’ll survive this too. We may even discover that this crisis is the opportunity we need to make our communities and organizations more sustainable, inclusive and community service oriented than they’ve ever been before.

Here's a sampling of the various crises we've wethered over the last 25 years.

In 1991 the great tsunami of HIV/AIDS was crashing over our shores. It would be almost five years before anti-retrovirals brought the deadly tide under control. We lost some great people, but we never gave up fighting. Not only did we as communities survive, we transformed public health care and civil rights for people with HIV.

In 1993 the beautiful life of my friend Greg Jodrey was snuffed out in a brutal beating in Wolfville. The lawyer for the troubled young man who had sex with my fiend and then killed him, used the “gay panic” defense, Greg's murderer seved two years of a four year sentence. There were other murders where lawyers used that defence. But this spring, at the sentencing hearing for Andre Denny, the judge not only acknowledged Raymond Taavel's queer identity, but praised both his loving relationship with Darren Oliver and his queer activism.

In 1994 Liberal MP Roseanne Skokes (Pictou County), reacting to NDP MP Svend Robinson’s efforts to include LGBTQ peoples under anti-discrimination protections, launched a concerted attack  on our community, She fulminated against us in the House of Commons, describing a queer conspiracy. “the homosexualist agenda.” This too was a crisis. What did queers do? We fought back!

Led by Jane Morrigan, a coalition of rural queer activists caught the attention of the entire country by naming themselves the Homosexualist Agenda and proudly declaring their agenda was “Equality.”

These rural activists rekindled the passion in a community that by 1995 was smarting from the decline of Rumours and the collapse of the services its revenues had supported. Although, 21 years later , we still don't have a community centre to replace what The Turret and Rumours provided, but rom the ashes of disappointment, the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project rose to keep our liberstion struggle moving forward, together with Halifax Pride.

The schism arising out of the Pride AGM is serious, but it will be easier to recover from than the loss of  Trevor Brester and Michael Knott, of Raymond Taavel and  Gabe Pictou Saulnier.

The AGM has raised serious issues, issues  our community has ignored for far too long. We can and should  look to our history, our Elders, and our survivors for guidance and for examples of action divorced from self-interest. I’m thinking particularly of Eric Smith, Lindsay Willow, and Scott Jones.

These three heroes put aside their personal suffering and transformed their adversities into inspirational victories in our collective struggle.

It is not widely known that in 1991, when the Human Rights Act of Nova Scotia was emended to include protections for LGB people, the government made it a condition that Eric Smith drop his human rights suit against the province, and that he not reveal that the government insisted on his sacrifice before it would guarantee basic human rights to LGB Nova Scotians. Eric of course complied, but the fact that the province made the provision a requirement shows not only their continuing comtempt for Eric's human rights; it showed how much they feared him!

When Lindsay Willow was wrongfully accused by a vice principal of sexually assaulting a student, she fought back, risking her health, her career, and her reputation, by pursuing a Human Rights complaint for six years! Lindsay was our Grand Marshall for the Halifax Pride Parade in 2006, the year she won her landmark case. I had the privilege of introducing her to the crowd before her speech, the roar of the crowd was so fierce and resounding, it was as if Melissa Etheridge had walked on stage. For every queer Nova Scotian who remembers that time, we felt she was fighting for all of us.

Scott Jones is an exemplar of personal transformation transcending adversity. Through his art and his honesty, he is inspiring people around the world. Don’t be Afraid could well be a watchword for change for all our communities as we confront the fallout from the AGM.

Author's Note: Part Two will adress the AGM itself and how we got to this point of conflict.


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