Freedom Flattens Hate, A History Boy, 04/07/2016

I'm not going to make a big, overcomplicated analysis today. Philosophical ideas, ideas for novels or films, thoughts on assembling my workshops – those will come later.

I was thankful I had Saturday evening and Sunday off this weekend, because I feel like I finally got my most proper Toronto Pride experience. Just being able to soak in the celebratory, defiant, fierce atmosphere of the whole event, which I think I’ve never really been able to do before.

Pride and LBGT existence has always been a part of my life – it’s in my family, my circles of close and distant friends – that I’ve always taken that existence for granted, in a way. 

It’s not that I was ever blind to the existence of homophobia or hostility to queer people. I’ve certainly always been aware of the struggles that queer people have faced, and I’ve learned more about those struggles over time.

I may not be gay, but I know the style of a party.
My mother and many of her gay and straight friends lost people they loved in the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s. I’ve known men and women who’ve faced the awkwardness and fear of coming out to their families, friends, and peer groups. People who’ve risked losing everything – or even just risked an eventual surgical complication – to come out as trans.

Of course, I’ve only known them. My own sexuality, in itself, has never caused me a problem. I’m just a little socially awkward. I’m still straight. I made some pretty bad mistakes with sex and relationships. But I’ve had it pretty easy.

I’ve heard the repulsive language of insults, hate, and – worst of all, because it's most insidious – the respectability talk. “They have the right to do it, but they should keep it to themselves.” “It’s not proper to have that flag in City Hall. This is a place for representing everyone.” And when the time is right,* I’ve tried to lead people to recognize their words for what they really are.

* That is, when I feel like I can call out their homophobia in a way that’s still polite and won’t encourage more violence or hostility.

But I’ve lived in socially progressive communities – online and in real life – for so long that I’d come to take for granted the freedom to be and become whatever sexuality you want. Where we’d established it, it was here to stay.

The past couple of years, we’ve seen the growth of a powerful movement of open, aggressive racism, sexism, and homophobia. More than just the Pulse Massacre, which was only its most horrifying expression. 

People who hate blacks, immigrants, queer people, who want women silent and subservient – they defend their loud, proud expressions of hatred as their freedom. That is an insult to the very concept of freedom. 

Freedom isn't about being able to do and say whatever you want, damn whatever tightwads may get offended. Freedom is about being able to be whatever you want. To be accepted for whatever you are.

The only identity forbidden under that is the identity that would, by its essential nature, destroy that freedom to become whatever your desires lead you to be. That forbidden identity is the racist, the one who hates. 

Haters are going to hate. It’s what they do. Hate destroys freedom because it literally destroys people for freely expressing whatever their own nature is leading them to become.

We can mock it with the stereotype phrase all we want. But when we’re talking about real hate, its damage is real. Real hate let hundreds of thousands of people die in a massive HIV epidemic. Real hate opened fire with an AR-15 a couple of weeks ago.

Our society is progressive, practically endlessly. We’re so progressive that the biggest controversy about Toronto Pride has become how it feels overloaded with crass corporate sponsorship, and negotiating the balance of power and visibility among all the queer demographics.

In a lot of other parts of the world, the biggest problem of Pride parades and celebrations is whether the police will protect them from the hooligans with knives and baseball bats, or whether they’ll join in. We’re never secure against hate. We always have to push it back. Push at it until no one hates anymore.

Happy Pride, everyone.

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