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It's not just about the hate, it's about the confusion

This week's Market Squared tries to unpacked the confusing mess of hate around homophobic posts to the city's social media channels.
A conceptual image showing where and what the rainbow crosswalk will look like at the Gordon/Wilson streets intersection.

It’s been more than 20 years since I last stepped foot in my old high school, but I bet that you could blindfold me, leave me somewhere random inside, and I could still find my way around with relative ease.

This week I’m remembering in particular a classroom on the second floor above the shop hall where some anonymous person wrote the word “gay” on the seat of one of the chairs in permanent marker, and believe you me, you did not want to be the last person to arrive and have to sit in the “gay chair.”

God it sounds so stupid just typing that, but that was life in a suburban GTA high school in the mid-1990s. I’m sure more than a few people I went to high school with were gay, statistically speaking, but they sure as heck weren’t going to tell anyone. I can’t image how lonely that must have been, and looking back I can barely imagine how easy it was to be so bigoted.

I guess that makes me pretty woke, not that I really know what that word means. Of course, I’m not sure anyone really knows what it means, especially the people who use it pejoratively.

This was on display Wednesday during the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, even as so many of our local leaders shared positive, affirming messages on social media, including Guelph’s mayor.

“No one should be afraid for who they are,” Cam Guthrie said in a Twitter post. “On the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia #Guelph is with you in love and kindness and will continue to call out hate towards you.”

I was pretty hard on the mayor last week, so let me just say that I was hearted to see the head of council post this message, especially in the wake of an incident last week where the City of Guelph had to shut down public access to their Twitter feed briefly to purge homophobic and transphobic sentiments on a post about the new rainbow crosswalk for Downtown Guelph.

Not everyone felt the same though.

“This agenda is getting old Cam. We are taxed to pay for a useless mayor,” said a grammatically questionable post written by someone known only as Passat2021. His profile picture is of Robert Duvall from Apocalypse Now, re-memed to tell you where you can put your “woke bulls**t”.

That wasn’t the worst of it though.

Someone else known as JurdunTippet posted a handy checklist comparing support for the queer community to Nazi ideology, which was just the tip of the bigotry because his coup de grâce was a picture of Justin Trudeau as Hitler in a pink Nazi uniform. 

It was at this point that I decided that I needed to stick my neck out if for no other reason that to add some historical context.

You see, more than a few gay men, bi men and trans women ended up in Nazi concentration camps where they were forced to wear pink triangles, and they were all lumped together with pedophiles and other sex criminals under that same badge. In other words, the Nazis thought queer people were predators, just like a lot of the people driving these modern instances of homophobia and transphobia.

To wit, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network reported that some neo-Nazis joined a protest against a family-oriented drag storytime at a Fort York library at the end of April. “Alongside typical and baseless accusations of pedophilia and grooming taking place at these family events, the afternoon protest saw half a dozen members of White Lives Matter Toronto adding shouts of ‘white power’ and Nazi salutes to the fray,” the report read.

I’m not sure how you can be one of the Nazis and be protested by them at the same time, but these kinds of logical inconstancies are pretty irrelevant to the ones promoting them.

The point is that they hate anyone that doesn’t identify as cis and straight, and it’s a learned behaviour. They’ve been told that the world’s problems stem from a small group of people that have unparalleled control, have a mandate to unilaterally change society into something you won’t recognize, and that it’s all happening in secret.

They’ve been told these things by people who know better, people like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s middle-class upbringing in Orlando and post-secondary education at Yale and Harvard would have surely exposed him to more than a few openly queer people in his life.

And as for that outsized power, the latest Canadian census says that 0.33 per cent of the Canadian population identifies as trans, and that a grand total of four per cent of the population count themselves among that big LGBTQ+ tent. Comparatively, 69.8 per cent of the Canadian population identify themselves as “white”.

I’m sure the people hate posting the mayor and the city are now decrying the loss of their “freedom of speech,” which is not a thing here in Canada where our Charter of Rights and Freedoms identifies freedom of expression, a slight difference, but also one that comes with its own unique rules and responsibilities versus our American cousins.

And consider this as you stew at the City of Guelph for recognizing your sick memes as hate speech instead of freedom of expression, is not a diversity of people also a diversity of thought? If you claim to love Free Speech, you should welcome all types of people into the discourse and not want to sideline or silence them. In other words, inclusion is Free Speech, not its opposite.

But I can’t let our government entirely off the hook here because promoting inclusion is about more than celebrating the day and painting a crosswalk. Are we doing more to make members of the queer community feel safe other than cleaning up the responses to Twitter posts? Are we doing enough to make sure that they are heard more loudly than the proverbial haters?

Ultimately, bigotry can flourish because the people they’re bigoted against don’t feel comfortable – to borrow a phrase – to be out. So the question is, are we doing enough for members out our LGBTQ+ community to make them feel safe and seen?

I will leave it the members of that community to answer that question.

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Adam A. Donaldson

About the Author: Adam A. Donaldson

In addition to writing his weekly political column for GuelphToday, Adam A. Donaldson writes and manages Guelph Politico, frequently writes for Nerd Bastards and sometimes has to do less cool things for a paycheque.
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