Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter April - May, 2010

Will’s father commented about how difficult school is for queer students. “Most parents worry about if they make a grade, make a team, or do things like that. When we sent Willi to school, we worried that it would be the last time we would see him.” Stated in interview in the documentary movie Anti-Gay Hate Crime: A & E Investigative Reports. Available from Amazon.Com and Amazon.Ca.
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April marked the Pink Shirt Day in Canada. Pink Shirt Day, April 14, coincides with the International Day against bullying, Discrimination and Homophobia. Pink Shirt Day started as the result of a young secondary student who was threatened and faced homophobic insults, because he wore a pink shirt to school. As a result of the activism of a few older students, the next day hundreds of students wore pink to school. Their act spoke volumes, volumes that would have been impossible to put into words. Every student who wore pink was saying, “You are not alone,” to victims of bullying, to victims of homophobic bullying. In a quiet, but forceful way, they said, “Not in my school!”

Last year, on Pink Shirt Day, the contributor of this newsletter sent an email to all staff at work indicating why he chose to wear a pink shirt. An email of response came from a colleague asking that staff be informed before the day, so staff, wanting to show solidarity with bullied students, could also wear pink. This year, an email was sent to staff a few days before Pink Shirt Day. A few staff replied that they would wear pink. Responses of support came from unexpected sources. The number of people who wore pink far exceeded the number of people who replied to the email. A few people made a point of personally apologizing for forgetting to wear pink.

The pink shirt worn was a T-shirt purchased from the Pink Shirt Day web site. The design, a stop sign, with the words “Bullying Stops Here.” The prominent message brought no visible reactions in two cafes, but did draw some attention from clients and colleagues at work.
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Rage, outrageous statements, and bigotry are cool, fashionable, almost admired. They’ve been made cool by shock radio and television. Wild, irresponsible, and inflammatory comments make headlines, and get ratings. Something in the human spirit seems to admire the tough, the reckless, the bad-boy. Muscles cars, sports cars that can easily cruise at twice the legal speed limits are highly desired. Many car enthusiasts dream about being able to own a car that can thumb its nose at speed limits and police pursuit cars. Trucks that look tough enough to eat mountains for appetizers are dream machines of truck lovers. Gentile, green cars do not turn heads. They are liked only for their economy.

Tough sells. Hate sells. Intolerance sells. Love, tolerance, and acceptance are not popular. They just don’t sell as well. Love is not popular. Until society gets to the place where rude, intolerant, insulting, and degrading language is not cool and fashionable, we will struggle to reduce verbal bullying and hate speech.

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There are two stories of concern from Edmonton, Canada. The first involves a report that a lesbian was attacked and severely beaten by a group of people. The people assaulting her are reported to have yelled homophobic comments. The victim of the attack suffered a broken jaw and a crushed eye socket. The police are reported to have taken 30 minutes to respond to a call. According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation investigation four days after the attack no report of the attack was filed by the investigating police constable. Evidently, a police helicopter was not called, and a police dog team was not used to try to track the attackers.

The news reports leave one concerned. The longer the delay between a crime and a thorough investigation, the less likely the police are to apprehend the criminal. Fortunately, one attacker was arrested by the police. At the time, this article was written, the police were only able to arrest one of the attackers.

A gay male Edmonton You Tuber was eating in a restaurant with his boyfriend. In a
You Tube video, he reports having received a dirty look from a man who saw the couple. Later, the man who gave the You Tuber the dirty look punched the You Tuber as he walked past the You Tuber’s table.
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May 17 was the International Day Against Homophobia. According to the International Day Against Homophobia web site, the International Day Against Homophobia is about more than just homophobia. The Day is an attempt to help spotlight some of the positive aspects of gays and lesbians, and to celebrate the contributions of gays and lesbians to society.

The need to address homophobia on an international level is clearly seen in the news. Queer news from North America, Africa, and Europe shows a lot of work is needed to reduce homophobia.

Africa. The legal future of gay and bisexual Ugandans continues to be uncertain in the face of possible changes to the laws in Uganda. In Malawi, a gay couple was charged and convicted of unnatural acts and indecency, after they celebrated their engagement. The couple was sentenced to 14 years in prison. International protests appear to have made a difference. An article on the
Edge news site states the President of Malawi pardoned the men and ordered their release. In Zimbabwe, two employees of a gay organization were arrested, because the authorities claimed they had indecent photographs and a poster that attacked the president. An article about their arrest can be read on Edge.

Europe. Pride parades in much of eastern Europe remain potentially problematic. In Moscow, two very small Pride parades were held. The Moscow police have generally moved quickly to break-up Pride parades. That did not happen this year. An
Edge article gives us the impression the police did not break-up the parades because of how they were organized, not because the general climate of homophobia has improved. Neo-Nazis are reported to have broken up a Pride parade in Slovakia. Gay asylum seekers are challenging the United Kingdom’s immigration policy regarding gay people who are seeking asylum on the basis of persecution for sexual orientation. An article about the court challenge can be read on the Pink News site.

North America. In the United States, some states to require school curriculum that is homophobic. An
Edge network article reports Utah, South Carolina, Mississippi, Arizona, and Oklahoma as having negative curriculum regarding gay people.

Caribbean. April 19, a trans-identified woman, Ashley Santiago, was found naked and stabbed in her home in Puerto Rico. According to an
Edge article, Ashley was stabbed 14 times.

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The Politics of Gay Rights, published by the University of Chicago Press, discusses the successes and failures of gay rights activism. The importance of Matthew Shepard’s murder in advancing hate crimes legislation is briefly mentioned. By August, 1999, 77 hate crimes laws aimed at protecting gays and lesbians were introduced in the United States. The inclusion of so many bills aimed at the protection of homosexuals from hate crimes appears to have been a reaction to Matthew Shepard’s murder. Contributors to The Politics of Gay Rights note more states have adopted hate crimes protection for gay people than any other “progay policy.”

Many minority communities have suffered staggering amounts of pain and loss. Out of the loss and pain, positive changes can come.
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Learning that people who are very negative about homosexuality and bisexuality appear to be engaging in same-gender relationships is nothing new. One of the more famous cases is that of Ted Haggard. He was President of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of a large mega church. He was critical of homosexuality. Ted Haggard, was exposed as having a long-term relationship with a male prostitute.

In the past few weeks, we learned that George Rekers hired a male prostitute to accompany him on a trip to Europe. George Rekers claims the young man was employed to help him with his luggage.

Were George Rekers be an ordinary Christian, this news would not have captured headlines. Rekers is no garden-variety Baptist. According to
Wikipedia, Rekers is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. But holding those qualifications alone would not have propelled this story to national headlines. According to Rekers’ web site, he was a professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Rekers’ web site lists his academic qualifications, which include a Ph.D. in psychology, a doctorate in theology, and a master’s degree in business.

Wikipedia notes that George Rekers provided expert testimony in court cases regarding homosexuality. He is reported to have been an officer in the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which, according to Wikipedia, offers therapy intended to help “change homosexuals into heterosexuals.” The idea that gays can become straight is very controversial, but that appears to be NARTH’s position.
NARTH’s web site states counselling clients have a “right to seek therapy to change one’s sexual orientation . . .” A goal of NARTH is to help provide psychological therapy to “homosexual men and women who seek change.”
Questions about the possibility that George Rekers had sex with the male prostitute might not be settled for a long time. His web site states that, with the assistance of a defamation attorney, he is going fight the false media reports. Reker’s reputation as an expert on homosexuality, and the credibility of all counsellors and ministers who either promote or engage in counselling to help gay people become straight has been seriously damaged by the story that Rekers took a male prostitute on a trip.


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