Between the lines

The End of Pride

Richard Burnett
Commentaires
Canada's Pride season is over and not a moment too soon. Not that I'm sick of Pride or the increasing congestion and commercialism of the Pride circuit -- it's just that after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled on July 12 that Canada must legalize gay marriage within two years, the influential opinion-making editorial boards of several of Canada's most important newspapers decided to crash our party by pissing all over gay marriage. "The majority of Canadians may or may not believe, as we do, that marriage is exclusively for a man and a woman," the right-wing Toronto Sun editorialized on July 30. "If not, we're prepared to accept the majority view. But we know this: Canadians don't believe such fundamental matters should be dictated by unelected judges."

The Sun later concludes, "It's one thing for a panel of judges to find that the ancient common-law definition of marriage conflicts with the Charter of Rights. But it's the governments and those of us who elect them who must decide whether and how to change it."

Of course the Sun neglects to mention that a whopping 65 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34 strongly oppose Canada's common-law rule -- which, by the way, dates back to an 1866 decision by a British court -- that defines marriage as the union of "one man and one woman."

The Montreal Gazette -- doing so well in its coverage of gay life leading up to Divers/Cité -- also blew it in its editorial of July 30. The Gazette's editorial board untenably intoned, "Same-sex couples are a social phenomenon. The prejudice of centuries has given way, and today, social stigma against such couples barely exists... But the definition of marriage is a broader question, carries considerable emotional freight and threatens to divide Canadians. Changing that definition requires a democratic, political solution."

Clearly centuries of prejudice against homos hasn't all given way, especially over at The Gazette.
In contrast, Canada's newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, came out strongly in favour of gay marriage and even chastised PM Jean Chrétien for appealing the Ontario court ruling and delaying the inevitable.

"Marriage in the modern world has much broader purposes," The Globe editorialized on July 30. "Many heterosexuals, for instance, get married with no intention of having children. Why? Because marriage is society's way of sanctifying the intimate union of two people. The state's interest is in supporting the commitment and stability, imperfect as they are, that marriages can help nurture."
The Globe concludes, "Politics shouldn't override principle. Ottawa should have made the decision... to permit gay marriage. Since it didn't, we must hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing."

As veteran journalist Jim Duff, editor-in-chief of the mainly West-End Montreal English-language weekly The Suburban, opined in his July 31 editorial, "From the death penalty and the Chantal Daigle abortion case to [pro-federalist lawyer] Guy Bertrand's UDI [Unilateral Declaration of Independence] challenge, Canada's Parliament has consistently passed the buck rather than deal with tough issues, leaving it to our judges to formulate public policy."

Remember that the next time you vote.

But editorialists and conservative opinion-makers aren't the only ones getting it wrong. Take former Xtra! managing editor Eleanor Brown, a good friend of mine who moved to Montreal last year and now freelances for various publications. Brown wrote in her controversial Aug 8 Globe and Mail op-ed "Why be wedded to gay marriage?" that she is "sick to death of gay and lesbian activists screeching at the top of their lungs about how horrible it is of the federal government to appeal the recent same-sex marriage court decision."

Brown basically synthesizes the whole debate in one line: "This is not about eating at a separate lunch counter, it's about fighting over the napkins at the very same dinner table.(If the waiter refuses to serve you, sue her.)"

Well, I think if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been refused the right to marry his wife - black or white - I think he'd have been screaming at the top of his lungs.

Brown further justifies her position by stating marriage is "a heterosexual institution. We have our own culture, and we need to keep it strong and healthy in this day of increasing assimilation. Our rituals include the festive celebrations of Pride Day, as well as the telling of the coming-out story. That tale is the moment we first begin to realize that we are different, and is one of the first things new friends share with each other. For men, the bathhouse culture is of paramount importance."
Well, Eleanor, let's get a few things straight: too many conservative dykes and faggots would love to see Pride Day scrapped, and I have no patience for these self-loathing homos. And yes, the coming-out story is universal. But I have yet to see most of the misogynous masses of gay men share their stories with the women who saved their fucking asses during the height of North America's 1980s AIDS pandemic. As for fucking itself, bathhouse culture is only of "paramount importance" to a small minority of gay men.

But I digress.

Gay-marriage WAS a welcome debate during Canada's Pride season. What was NOT welcome was just plain stupid journalism. The Gazette, for instance, in its Aug 4 "Drama galore at drag show" cover story created some drama of its own when it repeatedly referred to Mascara organizer and mistress of ceremonies Mado La Motte as -- wait for it -- Madame Simone.

Ouch.

Now, journalists well know there is almost nothing worse than mispelling someone's name in print. But it's worse to mistake one drag queen for another. Believe me, I know. At Hour magazine in the mid-90s we wrote a fabulous story about a fabulously overweight drag queen and mistook her for another heavy and fabulous drag queen. In a correction the following week, we mistook her yet again for a third drag queen. So the third week Hour ran a "Name That Drag Queen" contest. Fortunately all three drag queens weren't upset and enjoyed the publicity.

But Gazette reporter Kate Barrette should be red with shame. After all, could she not have even referred to Divers/Cité's Pride program?

One reporter who SHOULD know better is Mirror journalist Matthew Hays who, in a Divers/Cité ten-year retrospective piece that anchored the Mirror's coverage of Pride, actually wrote Divers/Cité would like "to grow and pay actual salaries (something it doesn't do now)."

Well, for starters, Divers/Cité had 12 paid staffers this summer.

The feature also gives the impression Divers/Cité was co-founded by a collective of queer activists who "met in the apartment of [CKUT radio host] John Custodio, where they mapped out a philosophy heavily indebted to feminism."

Well, it's true the mission statement was done at Custodio's place. But, make no mistake, Divers/Cité was co-founded by just two people, current head honcho Suzanne Girard and PR consultant Puelo Deir, who actually approached Girard with the idea for a Pride parade in the spring of 1993 and didn't even figure anywhere in Hays's decade retrospective.
In fact, Deir also helped come up with the Divers/Cité logo, something Hays credits only to Winnipeg graphic artist Zab (a.k.a. Elizabeth Hobart).

Another point of contention is that in the Québecois Pride movement, "sexual identity often took a backseat to linguistic identity - an intriguing irony, considering the number of famous Quebec queers who are also diehard sovereigntists, including Michel Tremblay, Robert Lepage and the late author Pierre Vallières, one of the grandfathers of the separatist movement."

That's all fine and dandy until you learn Tremblay even resisted marching in Ça Marche until a few years ago and Vallières, whom I knew in his last years, was a queer activist of long standing. Vallières founded Montreal's gay-rights Berdache magazine in the 1980s and in his final years proclaimed that federalism and separatism had both become irrelevant.
Grandfather of the separatist movement, indeed.

If anything, the journalism of the last few weeks proves once again that Quebec's gay and lesbian communities, French and English, remain as Balkanized as ever.


Richard Burnett's national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Hour magazine as well as on the web at www.hour.ca and www.pridevisiontv.com (click on the "issues" link and scroll down to Three Dollar Bill).