Monday, 25 July 2016

I am NOT your ‘ELDER’

I am not your elder.
That is not my culture, that is a term from another culture and it has absolutely no relevance to mine.
So please do not call me that.
I am a white Canadian guy and I have very little knowledge of Aboriginal culture; and as much as I may have learn about it, I cannot claim to ever fully understand it, as I am not in it.
From my admittedly limited understanding, Canadian Aboriginal culture treats the older members of their community with great respect — younger people are interested in what ‘elders’ have to say, and give them a pride of place, based on the notion that they may have gathered wisdom in their many years upon this earth.
This may be true of Canadian aboriginal culture; however in modern day Canada the situation is quite different.
I know what it is to be old in Canada today. My disabilities are treated with irritation and fear. (When I walk slowly on the street I am told in no uncertain terms to get a move on!) I live in a culture that only values youth — and the kind of unwrinkled, slender beauty that is associated with it. Before I open my mouth it is assumed that I probably won’t have anything important to say; I can see people bracing themselves for the interminable tirade of an old bore. I have yet to encounter a young person who values my experience. In my work I am constantly told that I have ‘had my day’ and that it is time for me to move aside for a contemporary point of view.
If I go to the movies or go online I am overwhelmed with youth culture — pretty people talking about and doing things I did and talked about years ago — all as if it was something new, and without history.
But listen. I’m not complaining.
No, really. 
You don’t believe me?
Well it’s my culture. I have lived with the advantages of being young in a youth-obsessed culture for many years, so now I must reap the disadvantages of being old in it. 
That’s just the way it goes.
I fully accept it.
What I’m complaining about are white people who appropriate an Aboriginal Canadian term and call me their ‘elder.’
I think it’s an unfortunate trend that accompanies the earnest and positive efforts to rectify some of the wrongs committed by the Canadian government against Aboriginal Canadians in the past.
All well and good.
 But people are throwing around terms like ‘two spirited’ and ‘elder’ as if they were the same as ‘queer’ and ‘old’ —- and as if it were all just a big game of Pokemon Go.
Well it’s not.
I know that for most people in Canada, age is not a matter of respect. They are in fact quite uncomfortable as they watch me stumble, — on my unlit way — to ‘dusky death.’
Respectfully — you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

So please don’t call me ‘elder.’

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Sad Irony of Black Lives Matter

It is ironic that Black Lives Matter should have been asked to participate in this year’s Pride Toronto — and even more ironic after what happened at this year’s parade.
Pride Toronto has become a meaningless exercise in corporate  display. The floats are no longer sexual because it might scare the kids. Grass roots political organizations are priced out of the parade, so mostly what’s left are splashy floats featuring boys in speedos, funded by big corporations. 
Middle class LGBT+ people (not unlike middle class people everywhere) are attracted by anything that involves money and shopping. So Pride Toronto is well attended. What you will see there are the knobby knees of older folks marching in support of their right to have children, go to church, vote Conservative or join the armed forces. Any ‘political agenda’ is confined to campaigning for full legal rights for LGBT+ people; most of which we have already achieved.
There is very little these days in Toronto Pride that speaks to lefty politics, queer culture, or homophobia.
So why did Toronto Pride invite Black Lives Matter — an organization with a fiercely political left-wing agenda — to be featured at this year’s Pride?
What did Toronto Pride expect?
The actions of Black Lives Matter are a slap in the face to Toronto’s LGBT+ community.
Congratulations to Black Lives Matter!
Unfortunately the slap will have little or no effect.
The irony of Black Lives Matter staging the anti-police protest in the middle of this year’s Toronto Pride is that each and every one of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ people have many reasons to protest Toronto police. Not only did Toronto Police famously raid the bathhouses in 1981 (which they have quite ineffectually apologized for) but they also raided The Pussy Palace in 2000. Also in 2000, police raided The Bijou sex cinema — where I was working as a cashier. (There have been no attempts by Toronto police to apologize for that incident.) Toronto Police haven’t just made one mistake — they keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
But do you think anything will ever mobilize the hidebound, old-fashioned, ‘family-centred’ LGBT+ community to protest the actions of the Toronto police?
Recent Toronto LGBT+ community ‘concern’ over the 1981 bath raids is lip service. No one cares. If bath raids were to happen today, no one would support the men or women victimized by police action. We tried to organize a march against the police raid of The Bijou in 2000, and guess what?
Nobody turned up.
Today’s LGBT+ community is fervently apolitical. I predict that — tragically — after singing along with a Lady Gaga song at a Toronto Pride church service, or observing sad floral displays on the street to remember ‘Orlando’, Toronto Pride will continue on its merry, apolitical corporate funded way.
The document Matthew Charlebois  signed isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. In Toronto’s LGBT+ community, intersectionality does not mean fighting for our own rights along with other radical groups, it means offering token space to Black Lives Matter as an excuse to ignore our own oppression.
It’s all very sad.