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HomeArts & CultureGay is the new V-Neck

Gay is the new V-Neck

Hayden Panettiere is scheduled to fall for her female roommate in the upcoming episode of Heroes. Lindsay Lohan’s tweeting addiction has betrayed her continuing heartache over Samantha Ronson to the New York Daily News. And, on an anecdotal level, I’m happy to note that I haven’t heard “I need a gay best friend to take me shopping” actually said out loud for at least 16 months.

It’s a super trendy time to be queer, right?

Maybe not. As I write this, I’m reading about the devastating potential arson of the Aquarius Bathhouse in Winnipeg that occurred on Thanksgiving Sunday. Robert Clark, a 62-year-old man from Saskatchewan, was one of the two men killed in this fire.

Bathhouses originally sprung up to help fill a need for gay men to have sex and be able to meet other queers in an environment that felt safe and offered them some amount of dignity.

But we’ve moved past all that, right? It’s not like gay men need to go to these secretive saunas any more. Well, if Clark was driving from a province away to fill a need in a place where he felt safe, only to end up being killed, we can’t have moved very far.

Being queer can be easy if you fit into a specific box. A wealthy, satin lined, urbanite box. Usually one painted white. It’s incredibly different to be a wealthy gay man or bi-curious white woman living in Halifax with money and expensive skinny jeans, and identify as queer, than to be queer and poor or living in the outback.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to call yourself pro-queer than to question affluence and the power structures that oppress queer people who aren’t wealthy city folk. It’s easier for the economically right/socially left heteronormative urbanite population to fight for gay marriage rights (and get a sweet influx of commitment related parties as a result) than to push for more funding for more financial support for people living and dying with AIDS (but that will cost me money).

Plenty of people living in sexy North End Halifax houses can think that it’s really cool that they have a token lesbian friend who moved to town from New Waterford with whom (if all else fails) they can make out on Friday nights.

But it’s a much bigger commitment to fight for more sexual orientation training for teachers, more queer-inclusive sexual health programs in schools, and more access to sexual health and safety resources, so that the next token lesbian in New Waterford doesn’t get outed, harassed or have her face kicked in without serious repercussions.

Homophobia in Nova Scotia isn’t just about that one friend of yours who moved here, either. Remember that time, epochs ago, when Pictou refused to raise the Rainbow flag during Gay Pride Week? Oh, right – that was last year.

My problem with the rapid assimilation of socially and patriarchally acceptable queerness is that I fear it becomes really easy to look at “how far we’ve come”. It’s legal to get gay-married in Canada! Halifax has a Youth Project! Woo! Well, we still have a long way to go.

If we don’t stop being so righteous and start looking at how queer oppression does exist, we’ll just keep making it great to be gay for rich city kids without making a lasting and real change in how people interact with and respect those who are queer identified.

When we rapidly assimilate alternative sexuality, we should be careful not to cheapen our progression. Queers who don’t fit into a specific mold of what’s acceptable are being left behind. When we start the talk about how much we’ve progressed and how it’s okay to be gay, I fear we will stop recognizing homophobia as it occurs outside of our own privileged class or location.

I don’t want us to dismiss present complaints of queer oppression, whether in Pictou County, Winnipeg or here in Halifax. Rather than truly moving forward, I think we’re only moving forward for college girls from Ontario who want to experiment with having girlfriends, which only emphasizes and makes more brutal the intersectional oppression faced by people who aren’t those things.

Go, put on some skinny jeans, make yourself an espresso and think about what I said. And remember: just because Li-Lo doesn’t write about these problems on her Twitter-Feed doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

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Katie Toth
Katie Toth
Katie was the Opinions Editor of the Gazette for Volume 143.

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