#YEG – Careless Whisper

(Originally posted on April 3, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

Every teen drama in recent memory that’s taken a crack at a gay storyline has included one virtually identical scene. The gay (or presumed gay) character – usually tertiary but occasionally a main player – is walking nonchalantly down the school corridor. Suddenly, he or she stops dead. The camera then zips helpfully around to show us what all the fuss is about.

A locker has been tagged, in spray paint, with the word “FAG.”

This exact scene has happened on Dawson’s Creek, Popular, and Glee, among other teen shows. It usually happens midway through Season Two. (For variety, One Tree Hill had a “DYKE” locker instead, which I suppose is refreshing?)

The scene always unfolds the same way: one word, one locker, and one victim forcibly made conspicuous in a crowd of his or her peers. The perpetrator is absent or invisible; a faceless coward, hiding behind a very small but powerful word.

Hate can be so paint-by-numbers.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine showed me some disturbing images from right here in Edmonton. They were photos of a home here in the city; a home spray-painted with racial slurs. I blinked at these photos in disbelief. Is this sort of thing seriously still happening, right under our noses? In a city, and indeed a country, celebrated for its diversity? In 2013?

Really?

Continue reading “#YEG – Careless Whisper”

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Microaggression

(Originally written on April 3, 2015.)

The other day Mo and I had to take our new car in for service at the dealership where we bought it last year (it shall remain unnamed). We got the usual oil change, and our winter tires were swapped for summer tires. I dropped the car off at the dealership in the morning and as I waited for the shuttle to come back to take me to work, I realized I had forgotten my purse at home. With some texting back and forth with Mo, we figured that the shuttle could pick her up after work instead of me, and then she could cover the bill.

The shuttle driver was an older gentleman who got talking with the other customer in the van about ice fishing on the drive over. When we arrived at my stop, he asked if he would be picking me up at the same location. I told him no, he’d be picking up “my fiancée”. I told him where she works, with mild emphasis on the pronoun. He then asked, “so when will I be picking up your friend?”

Microaggressions like this serve to remind me that not everyone is as accepting of my relationship and my identity as my family and friends have been. It wasn’t scary, and it didn’t ruin my day. It was definitely awkward, though. The driver refused to acknowledge the relationship I had specifically spelled out for him. People tend to take pride in their relationships. Amberly isn’t just my friend, she is my best friend. In having that title, a certain meaning and history to our relationship is conveyed to people who don’t know her. Mo isn’t my friend, she is my fiancée. She is the woman I intend to marry, and spend the rest of my life with. If you are in a heterosexual marriage, and you introduced your spouse to someone, and that person then called him or her your “friend”, do you think you might be a little confused? Miffed? Maybe offended? Would you correct the person?

There are many places in the world where being queer is very dangerous, and looking at our closest neighbour, I can see that living in Canada – even Alberta – is preferable to much of the United States. But the way politics are, and the stances that the right-wing political parties in Alberta have taken on some recent issues like religious freedom, and gay-straight alliances in schools, I am wary of things changing for the worse. How big are the steps between no gay straight alliances in schools, and being turned away at my doctor’s office when treating me violates the religious beliefs of my doctor?

In the end, we got a ride with one of Mo’s coworkers, and didn’t need the shuttle. We wouldn’t have taken it even if we had.


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