So someone on Twitter asked who-all was going to attend this evening’s Day Of Pink Gala (hosted by the CCGSD, formerly Jer’s Vision), and I responded, this morning, with one word: Nope.
While the sentiment was definitely clear, I did feel like I was being a bit misleading. So, as is my wont, I wrote a blog post to talk about this a little bit more.
 
Look. The truth of the matter is that I’ve never gone to a Day of Pink Gala. Even though it’s a free (iirc) party, and even though there’s a good chance that there’s free food at said free party, and even though I am exactly the kind of broke artist who will show up at a stranger’s vernisage specifically to eat the free cheese while trying to get a modeling job… I never went to DoP. For Reasons. Put it down to my being a home-body and big crowds making me nervous.
 
In previous years, this wasn’t anything to Make A Statement about, so I never did. At most, I’d shrug and go “Meh. I think I’ve got something else on that night” and not mention that “something else” was probably “youtube videos”. But then this happened: The CCGSD appointed Laureen Harper as their Day Of Pink ambassador. Now, on her own, Laureen Harper is just… some chick. Google her, and pretty-much all you’ll find is her connection to her husband, the current leader of the governing party of Canada.
You know, the biggest bully in the country.
(Okay, he might be tied with Don Plett, but every slime-ball needs a wingman, amirite?)
 
So here’s the thing. It is (technically) possible to have a lasting, loving relationship with a partner whose politics differ radically from your own. At least in theory[1]. So this would be a completely different situation if Laureen Harper’s youth-advocacy work involved being vocally and publically supportive of the rights of specifically queer and trans students to a harassment-free learning environment.
But, as far as I can tell, she’s not doing that. Sure, she talks about how it’s important to support diversity in schools, but in Ottawa, and in Ontario more generally, we’ve been watching state-sponsored English-language Catholic schools insist on the term “diversity” as a way to specifically refuse to support, or even recognize, their queer and trans students. “Diversity” in and of itself is great – the Pagans have a saying, “Strength in Diversity”, that references how much healthier a tall-grass prairie is to a monocrop, for example, how many voices singing in harmony with each other are way more powerful, more moving, than one voice shouting all alone – but “diversity” isn’t great when it’s co-opted by people who are actively trying to force you back into a closet.
 
Also, something worth noting: Pink Shirt Day was originally a campaign started by two rural Nova Scotia 12th-graders in support of a ninth-grade student who was hit with specifically homophobic slurs when he wore a pink shirt to school one day. Day Of Pink is a national upshot of youth-for-youth solidarity and, importantly, of youth standing with peers who face violence specifically because their gender presentation and/or sexual orientation is, or is perceived to be, outside of what’s considered “normal”.
So here’s a story from my own childhood:
I didn’t know “bisexual” was a thing until I was sixteen, and it took another year for me to figure out that “bixsexual” was a term that applied to me. But I didn’t need to be “out and proud” or even just “visibly queer” (as a cis, femme, little girl, the only things that marked me as “other” were my height, my music, and – unexpectedly? – my insistence on wearing dresses) to face homophobic bullying. Nobody beat me up, but my fifth grade was all about getting swarmed by mobs of classmates jeering “Are you a lesbian? Are you a lesbian???” (if you were wondering about where that fear of crowds came from…), stealing my shoes, being told that people being “different” was fine just “Not when they’re different like you”. It was my teachers being deeply unsettled to see me doing a Fred and Ginger dance routine with another girl in my grade.
I know damn well that I was not the only turned-out-to-be-queer kid in my class. Not just statistically, either (Ottawa’s a small town, for a place with a million people). Given that none of our teachers were saying “there’s nothing wrong with this, stop being a douche-canoe”, I can’t say I blame them for letting me draw the fire, if they’d even figured themselves out yet, which isn’t necessarily the case. But if they knew? If nine and ten year old kids knew they were One Of Us, and knew that to keep themselves safe they had to laugh at the (other) faggot right along with the Normal People… do you really think they wouldn’t?
I’m not typically one to quote Ivan Coyote, but they said something on facebook a while back, after having seen a high school teacher wearing a pink t-shirt that read “The Pink Shirt Says It All”. What they said on facebook was (I’m paraphrasing, I think) “The pink shirt means fuck-all if it’s not backed up with action”.
 
Look. There are things that CCGSD does that I really, really like. I love that they hold national conferences where high school students can learn how to advocate for themselves and their peers with a specific focus on gender and/or sexuality minorities and youth of colour. I love that they run Rainbow Write, locally, which is a program that bring queer and/or trans writers and, frequently, specifically queer and/or trans writers of colour, to Ottawa to do writing workshops with queer and trans teens[2] (and, if space allows, Rainbow Brights of all ages). But Day Of Pink is supposed to be about stopping specifically homophobic and transphobic bullying; about making schools and, more broadly, the world safer for our children; for sending the message (and backing it up with action, folks!) that this particular type of cruelty – which is used to police gender and sexuality at every age and regardless of what a given targeted-person’s gender and sexual orientation actually are, but which always, always hurts OUR kids, no matter whom its directed at – is absolutely not okay. Deciding that the appropriate ambassador for this message is someone who will actively dilute it, who is someone with deep and personal ties to a party that is clearly dead set against all of us who live outside of that tiny, narrow charmed circle? My dears, that was the wrong decision.
 
Those feelings of rage and betrayal that are flying all over twitter right now? Those feelings are real. Some of us believed you had our backs. But getting popular with the powerful crowd by betraying those who are already getting stomped on?
Honey… that’s what bullies do.
 
 
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Although, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how. That is a hell of a hard road to walk, even when your partner’s hateful, fear-mongering politics aren’t routinely being rammed into actual federal laws.
 
[2] The second time I came out – as kinky and poly and queer-femme – as an adult with my own place to live, it was queer (and frequently kinky and poly) femme poets who got me through my divorce, helped me see my reflection on paper, and helped me find my voice as a writer. I can’t imagine how much more of a huge fucking relief it would be for a queer and/or trans kid, a teenager who might be afraid of getting kicked out of their home if they’re open about who they are, to meet and be mentored by adults who are just like them and who get it.