Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter July 19, 2008

In any case, people could not hear what I was saying over the sound of my body.” Riki Wilchins, trans rights and gender rights activist, in Queer Theory, Gender Theory, available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

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Our quote of the month is worth discussing. Riki Wilchins comments, “. . . people could not hear what I was saying over the sound of my body.” An individual from any one of numerous minority groups could have made the same comment. Women often find being taken seriously is difficult, because of their physical gender. In European-based cultures and countries, the voices of black, and aboriginal and indigenous peoples are not heard because of their bodies. People who have physical characteristics that are stereotypically Jewish, gay, or lesbian could find themselves treated differently, and not being heard because of their bodies.

The challenge for individuals and for society is to look beyond the physical body, the physical appearance, to hear what people are saying. That can be difficult, because there is a human tendency to place a lot of weight on physical appearance and behaviors. Helping create a prejudice, discrimination, and hate free zone is difficult. We must constantly be checking our attitudes, to ensure we are not hearing a person’s body so loudly that we cannot hear anything the person wants to tell us.

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Beverly Tatum, in the book “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” observes that racism can be more than prejudice. Beverly Tatum quotes David Wellman as defining racism is “a system of advantage based on race.” Tatum’s comments make a good starting place to discuss the broad issues of racism, religious hate, sexism, heterosexism, and homophobia.

Racism, religious discrimination, sexism, and heterosexism are more than isolated acts of injustice. Perhaps, they can all be defined as a system of advantage. The advantaged have political, spiritual, and economic power, while the disadvantaged minority groups are relatively powerless politically, spiritually, and economically. Men have more social, spiritual, political and economic power than women. In most of Europe and North America, white people have more power than people of color. Straight people are in a favored position compared to sexual minorities.

One theory of human motivation holds that people are motivated by power, and behave in ways that maximize their power. Keeping racist, sexist, heterosexist, and religious elitist systems in place pays off for those who are in power positions. Gay marriages do not threaten straight marriages or religion. For every gay couple that gets married, we will not see an additional straight marriage ending in divorce. Gay marriages pose no threat to society’s social services. In fact, same-sex couples save social services and medicare systems money. The real problem is same-sex marriages are a threat to the power of heterosexuals. Many heterosexuals do not want to give up the power of “being married” to gays and bisexuals. Moves to keep the word marriage reserved for straight marriages, while same-sex marriages are called unions, is an attempt to permanently protect the power advantage straight people enjoy. Gay marriages are not a threat to religion. For centuries, members of sexual minorities have faithfully supported organized religions. Gays and bisexuals, and same-sex marriage, are a threat to the power structures of many organized religions. Heterosexual, male dominated religions do not want to let gays, bisexuals, or women have access to power. Sacred writings, the fathers of the faith, and church tradition are interpreted by those in religious power. For that reason, gays, bisexuals, and women tend to be excluded from leadership, and the power that comes with exercising leadership roles.

American forces for and against same-sex marriage are building for another political confrontation. This time the political struggle is taking place in California. In May of this year California courts struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. According to a CNN article, the courts indicated to the effect that just like race and gender, sexual orientation is not a “legitimate” reason to withhold legal rights. Those who fear losing power to gays and bisexuals are now moving to limit California marriages to straight people. The political battle in California extends well beyond the state boundaries of California. The California debate appears to be taking on a more national scope. A New York Times article “California Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Fuels a Battle, Rather than Ending it” indicates a Florida group that supports only traditional marriage, Liberty Counsel, is looking at ways to help finance a California constitutional amendment to stop gay marriages. The article says sides for and against same-sex marriage are expected to spend $10 to $20 million each on a California campaign to restricting recognition of marriage to marriages between a man and a woman. Unfortunately, the struggle for equal marriage rights for gay and bisexual people feels like a never-ending political battle. The political struggle has been going on for years, and shows no signs of cooling down soon.

A few of many news stories related to same-sex marriages in California appear below:

Advocate article - Gay rights activists are boycotting the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, after the owner donated $125,000 to a campaign to end California same-sex marriages.

USA Today article - “Hundreds of gay couples enjoy ‘dream come true’ in Calif.” The USA Today article says the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates over half of California’s 102 thousand same-sex couples will get married in the next three years.

You Tube video - Ellen DeGeneres announces plans to get married, because the same-sex marriage ban in California was removed.

•A Human Rights Campaign article informs us the California Supreme Court declined to remove a marriage initiative designed to take away the right of same-sex couples to get married. The marriage initiative is on the November ballot.

•The Human Rights Campaign is collecting signatures of people supporting same-sex marriage rights in the United States. To date, they have collected over 1 million signatures. You can sign an online petition by clicking here.

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The role of churches, synagogues, and mosques in racism and homophobia is a concern. Many spiritual leaders and congregations are actively trying to end discrimination and hatred against minority groups. Unfortunately, some congregations and pastors might unintentionally be a part of the problem. A You Tube video discusses the research an author conducted when writing a novel. According to the video, the author interviewed over 400 people convicted of gay bashing. One concern expressed in the video is that more than a few of the people convicted of gay bashing felt their family’s faith justified their actions. The video calls people to try to exercise responsible speech, not just freedom of speech.
On a related topic, freedom of speech and responsible speech are on the news in Canada. While there are more legal rights in place for gay, lesbian, and bisexual Canadians than there are in many other countries in the world, there are still problems with highly homophobic comments. Recently, there was a ruling regarding a letter a Red Deer, Alberta pastor, Stephen Boissoin, wrote to the newspaper.

We are of the impression a June, 2002 letter to the editor of Red Deer Advocate by Stephen Boissoin, “Homosexual Wicked Agenda,” is reprinted on the Xtra.ca web site. The letter attributed to Pastor Stephen Boissoin says “war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth . . .” The letter claims that starting in kindergarten, children are “strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators.” The article calls on people to “ . . . wake up! It’s time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness . . . “ In reference to gay rights activists, the letter says, “These activists are not morally upright citizens, concerned about the best interests of our society. They are perverse, self-centered and morally deprived individuals . . . Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them, are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.” The comments in the article sound similar to comments attributed to Stephen Boissoin cited on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article. The CBC article cites Boissoin as saying the practice of homosexuality is “lethal.”

The web site StephenBoissoin.Com contains an explanation of the letter. In the explanation, Stephen Boissoin says, “War has been declared simply meant that I was making my standard 'public' and that I would no longer remain quiet . . .” He continues, “Anybody with a hint of common sense knew that this terminology had nothing to do with violence.”

This contributor is not speaking for Stop Hate 2000. The following comments are strictly a personal opinion. Had Stephen Boissoin stated some limits on the “war” and indicated directly that this “war” is only political action, and had his letter reminded people that violence against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is not justified, this contributor’s concerns would have been limited only to the inaccurate comments made about the queer community. In this contributor’s opinion the letter might have unintentionally left a few people with a sense that violence against the queer community might be appropriate. We do not believe that is what Stephen Boissoin meant, but the level of violence against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is so high special care needs to be taken.

The strong language in the letter resulted in a complaint being lodged about the letter. In a CBC article, a Red Deer teacher, Darren Lund, is reported to have filed a complaint “after a gay teenager was attacked” in Red Deer. From a July, 2007 CBC article, we gather the gay teenager was attacked about two weeks after the letter to the editor was published. According to the article, Lund, a former Calgary police officer, and a psychologist felt the article “created an atmosphere of hate in Red Deer that may have led to an incident of so-called ‘gay-bashing’ . . . ” The article reports a person who worked with Stephen Boissoin claims Boissoin wrote the letter to provoke a reaction. This person is cited as saying, “He would come into the office everyday and look at the newspaper and say 'What's the backlash today? Who's going against me today?' He was really, really excited by that."

Reports that Boissoin might have been excited about the response to his letter is an item of concern. This report could make one wonder if Stephen Boissoin wrote the article to gain publicity and for excitement, or if the article was written due to concerns of a more religious nature.

A June 2008 CBC article tells us the Alberta Human Rights Commission fined Stephen Boisoin $5,000 for the letter he wrote in 2002. Evidently, Stephen Boissoin was directed by Alberta Human Rights Commission the to write an apology and to stop publishing negative remarks about gay people. A June 30, 2008 CBC article indicates Stephen Boissoin plans on appealing the decision to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta. The ruling of the Alberta Human Rights Commission is controversial. The article cites an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Alberta as stating there could be problems with the ban on saying “disparaging” comments about gay people. This case will prove to be an interesting case to follow. The courts could deem his comments warranted a fine, but the ban on publishing bad things about the gay community is not appropriate.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission would not have had a problem had the pastor said, “Jesus loves you.” Unfortunately, the pastor did not make love the center-piece of his article.

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There are times when the wheels of justice grind so slowly members of minority groups feel there will never be any justice. That could well be the case for the family of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Jimmie Jackson was murdered in a civil rights demonstration in Marion, Alabama over 40 years ago. A former Alabama state trooper is scheduled to for trial for the 1965 murder. The trial serves as a warning to those who exercise violence against minorities. Even the passage of time and police status cannot protect you from justice. An Associated Press article about the case can be read on the Mike on Crime web site.

Another old case of racist murders is being investigated by the police. Four people, Roger and Dorothy Malcom, and George and May Dorsey, were murdered in Monroe, Georgia 1946. According to an Associated Press article, a white mob dragged two couples from a car, tied them up, and opened fire. A few of the original suspects are still alive.

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In a more contemporary incident, a Canadian Press article indicates the Halifax Canada police are investigating a complaint that a group of off-duty police uttered racial slurs and started a fight with two black men outside a bar in Digby, Nova Scotia. The complaint is that the police constables taunted the black men into fighting. Additional details can be found on the Mike on Crime site.

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Those who perform hate crimes often target the weak and vulnerable members of society. Sex-trade workers, and street people are becoming increasingly common targets of hate crimes. When street people are targets of hate crimes, the motivation appears to be hate based on socio-economic class. Hate is not rational. Hate crimes against street people seem like one of the least rational, and least intelligent forms of hate.

In Kelowna, Canada four people are believed to have attacked a homeless couple. The couple did not report the crime. After the crime was brought to the attention of the police, video surveillance helped the police identify those who assaulted the homeless people. A Canadian Press article gives news about the assault.

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One common trait in hate crime murders is extreme violence. Two young French men were murdered in London. An Associated Press article indicates one of the victims, Laurent Bonomo was stabbed almost 200 times, while a second Gabriel Ferez was stabbed about 50 times. The article does not state the murders could be hate crimes, but one is left wondering if the murders could be a hate crime.

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A few stories we’ve been following appear below:

•The Human Rights Campaign reports that the United States Senate passed a bill approving the repeal of a law that banned HIV positive visitors and immigrants.

•Senator John McCain, who is the Republican Presidential candidate, is opposed to adoption by gay people. Articles and opinions about McCain’s position can be read on The Bay Area Reporter, and the Human Rights Campaign web sites.
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We want to thank the many people who sent us videos related to hate. Some of the You Tube videos we were forwarded about hate appear below:

•The You Tube video Gay Pride encourages people to see gays and lesbians as regular people, and to allow gays and lesbians the same rights straight people have to love and to be loved. The video emphasizes how much marriage equality matters.

•Gay Bashing PSA. This You Tube video gives statistics about hate crimes. According to the video, about 8,000 hate crimes are reported each year in the United States, and in 2006 about 1,500 of those crimes were against queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified) youth.

•Words Hurt is a You Tube Video about homophobic words.

•Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia Week 08, a You Tube video about homophobia and transphobia. The video is unusual, because few videos address the important topic of transphobia. The video was created by the North Notts College Student Union.

Anybody with news about hate crimes or discrimination is welcome to email us.



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