I came of age and came out in the Alberta of the mid 1990s. Delwin Vriend was taking the Klein government to court because of their complete unwillingness to offer gay and lesbian Albertans the same protection against discrimination enjoyed by the rest of the province. I was living in Lethbridge at the time, sandwiched between Mormons and fundamentalist Christians in Alberta’s Bible Belt. Everywhere I looked, there were people arguing that simply not letting gays get fired or evicted would open the door for all sorts of perversions and degeneracy, and nowhere was this broadcasted louder and clearer than the pages of The Alberta Report, an ultra-conservative publication that was more of a bible to groups like REAL Women than the Bible itself.
Even then, their arguments were tired and old. Being gay was immoral, being gay was a disease, being gay could be fixed through therapy and prayer, and gays, being unable to have children of their own, increased their numbers through the recruitment of youth. We’d already heard it all before, but it was being spouted again, loudly, from pulpits and from politicians. Homophobic hatred found fertile ground in many Albertans – some of whom were in my own family – and it fucking hurt.
I made it through it, even though others didn’t. The connection between anti-gay rhetoric like that and the suicide rate of gay Albertans wasn’t complex to understand. It was direct. Their hate had a real body count. But the tide was turning, it seemed. Vriend won, Prides grew, marriage equality happened, and it seemed like, aside from some outliers, the country was now not only accepting but affirming of their LGBTQ siblings.
There was a moment there when we, as a community, actually let ourselves relax and breathe.
But it’s back, bigger than ever it seems like, a far-right wildfire blazing with virtriol, and drag queens and trans people were the match. The argument is the same though. Queer people put kids in danger. It doesn’t matter that there’s no proof of this; they don’t need proof. They just want to hate. Because you see, they’ve always had one goal – whether it was Anita Bryant campaigning against gay teachers, or Ralph Klein letting gays be fired, or literal actual Nazis outside the Stanley A Milner Library last summer, their goal is our erasure. They will try to terrify us back into the closet, they will try to get inside our heads and our hearts until we push down every truth about our sexuality or gender. They want us dead. This is not exaggeration. Their hate has a very real body count.
It’s everywhere now, like it hasn’t been since the height of that mid-90s fight for simple human rights protection. They’re playing on people’s ignorance and confusion to make sure a new generation of people are taught to hate us. Hate, unlike sexuality, is, after all, groomed. The drag queens who threw rocks at Stonewall, who wrote letters to the Prime Minister to get the government out of the bedroom, they’re still front and centre in the battleground for queer and trans rights, and a whole new generation is being taught that the act of simply living, of expressing themselves, of finding their own joy, is going to be met with vile and venomous protest.
But they’re the ones terrorizing kids. They can call us groomers all the want but they’re the ones sexualizing children through beauty pageants, diddling children in church corners. It’s their words that are sinking into the souls of their queer and trans kids. It’s their words that are going to lead to those kids growing up hating themselves, if they grow up at all. How much bigger will the body count of the far right get?
I am so broken that it’s happening all over again, that all the progress of the last twenty or fifty years seems like its disappearing. And I know it’s temporary. I know the tide has shifted too much to truly wash away all that progress. And I want to think its the outcry of a decreasing minority of bigots. But they sure seem to be growing in number, and they sure seem to be getting bolder than ever, and they sure seem to be aided and abetted by the same far-right politicians I thought were becoming a thing of the past.
The past. They saw those who forget it are doomed to repeat it. We haven’t forgotten though. It’s them, with the same tactics they tried before. They lost then, they’ll lose again. I keep telling myself that.
But how many more kids are we gonna lose in the meantime?