I read an article last night that just about put me through the roof: John Baird’s Defence of Gay Rights “Offensive,” Women’s Group Says. Apparently, it is the opinion of an organization calling themselves “REAL Women of Canada” that our nation’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has no business criticizing countries like Russia and Uganda for their appalling stance on gay rights — in Russia it’s a criminal offence to even advocate LGBT equality, much less actually be LGBT; in Uganda it’s a death sentence.
According to Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, “The issue is really why is he interfering in a sovereign country’s legislation? He really has no business to do that… I don’t want other countries to get what we have here where people’s religious values and traditional values are being pushed aside and giving homosexuals priority.” The same press release states that “Homosexual activists have become a tyrannical minority.”
Let’s start with a couple of basic facts: I don’t like the Right Honourable John Baird; I think he’s a bully and a braggart. I don’t like the government he represents; I think the Stephen Harper Conservatives are nose-diving this country into the ground. So I really need you to understand where I’m coming from when I say this: John Baird is absolutely in the right in this situation and I support his stand. He is absolutely correct to use Canada’s international reputation to criticize Russia’s new anti-gay laws, just as he was right to condemn Uganda when they passed laws making homosexuality punishable by death. These “laws” are unacceptable human rights violations and we as a nation should take a stand in the arena of international politics.
That is how fucked up Russia is on this issue: they’ve moved the goalposts so far down the field that I’m playing on the same team as John Baird.
In May of this year, a Russian man named Vladislav Tornovoi was confronted by two acquaintances; they believed he was homosexual. When challenged, he courageously affirmed his sexual orientation. For that admission he was beaten until his ribs broke, was clumsily castrated, had beer bottles jammed into his anus so deeply that his spleen ruptured, had his skull crushed by a cinderblock and was then set on fire. The murderers not only bragged about their crime on the local news, but assumed that charges of murder would be dropped because the victim was a confessed homosexual. Legal proceedings continue, slowly. It is unlikely either of Tornovoi’s murderers will ever see the inside of a Russian prison.
This graphic incident in Volgograd is not isolated, it’s merely one that reached international attention. Assaults on LGBT people in Russia are commonplace… and usually not investigated by police. “Corrective rape” against lesbians is commonplace. When LGBT people stand up for their rights, they are attacked by “anti-gay protesters”, usually with the jeering encouragement of the very police that are supposed to be there for their protection… if the police themselves don’t join in enthusiastically. The hateful, homophobic attitudes of the average Russian are merely being exploited by Putin and his government for their own cynical reasons.
What infuriated me last night, and is still infuriating me, is Ms. Landolt’s statement that “people’s religious values and traditional values are being pushed aside and giving homosexuals priority.” This proves to me that she doesn’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. If she and her “pro-family conservative women’s movement” (and there’s a euphemism for Stockholm Syndrome) thinks assault, murder, rape, and setting people on fire are somehow synonymous with “religious and traditional values”, then all I can say is thank the Gods for the “tyrannical minority of homosexual activists.” It’s not giving LGBT people “priority” to say they don’t deserve to be murdered… it’s merely acknowledging them as human beings.
When she says we don’t have any place condemning the kind of violence that LGBT people face in Russia, Ms. Landolt, and people like her, are essentially advocating that assaulting and murdering LGBT people is the right thing to do. Qui tacet consentire: They who are silent consent. People like her believe that their religion is the only right way to be… hell, her organization is actually called REAL Women of Canada. They are traditional-values “Christian” organization who are literally stating that women who don’t believe what they believe are not “real”, that they are not people.
But you know what? Religious belief is, ultimately, a choice. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I chose not to be Catholic anymore. Why? Because I could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy that I saw within the Catholic church, particularly the hypocrisy around LGBT sexuality. I embraced a different faith with a message of tolerance and inclusiveness that I could better identify with and one which I genuinely consider more moral than Catholic dogma (I’m a neopagan in the Reclaiming tradition, if anyone is bothering to keep score.) I chose that. I know people who have similar opinions about LGBT rights that have chosen to remain in the Catholic church, and you know what? I respect that choice. I don’t understand it, but I respect their right to make that decision.
Sexual orientation isn’t a choice; the choice is whether or not one will accept and be comfortable with their sexual orientation — and I say that as a man who spent a significant part of his teen years praying to God “please don’t let me be gay.” There’s a reason that LGBT youth are four times more likely than straight youth to commit suicide… even here in “enlightened” Canada. Father Terry, one of my priests in high school, was very fond of the whole “Love the sinner, hate the sin” approach… an approach which is complete bullshit, by the way: being who God made you isn’t a sin. “Sin,” to quote the author Terry Pratchett, “is when you treat people as things. Including yourself.”
And that’s exactly what is happening in Russia. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Uganda. And, apparently, that’s exactly what is happening in the organization claiming to be “REAL Women of Canada.” If you think someone is less than you because of an accident of birth, you see them as less than a person; you see them as a thing. That is now literally the dogma of the Catholic Church — Pope Benedict XVI stated that gay people are incapable of being “fully developed humans” (Pope Francis’ recent statement about “not judging gays” was taken out of context by the media: he actually reaffirmed Benedict’s position; he was talking about not judging the homosexual urges of celibate priests.)
I was born bisexual. It’s as simple as that. I have blue eyes, great hair, sleep apnea, and am sexually attracted to both men and women. None of those things should be an issue… and yet at least one of them is, pretty much on a daily basis. I have no control over whether or not I was born with certain characteristics, and one of the nicer things about living in Canada in the 21st century is that it is illegal — unconstitutional, in fact — to deny me any service or benefit based on characteristics determined by my birth. It doesn’t matter if that characteristic is my gender, my racial background or my sexual orientation, under Canadian law I cannot be treated any differently than anybody else because of them. The application of this principle, I know, is not as universal as we all wish it was, but I’m painting in broad strokes to make a point here: Being born bisexual, homosexual or even heterosexual literally does not matter under Canadian law… one way or the other. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms as been successfully used to knock down various inequalities and I have every confidence that the remaining inequalities in our system will be levelled by the Charter… at some point. (I tend to advocate for sooner, rather than later, with right bloody now as my preferred time-frame, but it’ll happen.)
Gwendolyn Landolt and her organization seem to think that Russia and Uganda have it right when it comes to LGBT people. Of course, they don’t want to move there or anything, they just want to admire them. That smacks a bit of hypocrisy to me, but whatever; If homophobes want to be homophobes, let them. If they want to do it publicly, then they should be prepared to suffer the shame and opprobrium they deserve for holding repugnant attitudes. It is ridiculous that people in the 21st Century feel they can hold prejudiced opinions based merely on another person’s genetic predispositions — literally ridiculous, as in “worthy or deserving of ridicule or derision.”
John Baird, Member of Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the right decision in publicly condemning Russia’s “mean-spirited and hateful law”. Canada was, is and always should be a world leader in human rights and the rule of law. Well done, Mr. Baird, for continuing that tradition. And Ms. Landolt? Please feel free to vote with your feet.