Thoughts on Ottawa’s Capital Pride

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LGBTory Canada unequivocally supports the trans community and would like to see more conservatives come out in support of future bills like bill C279.  We hope that the original 18 conservatives that supported bill C279 will help us reach out to the conservative MPs in gaining enough support in the future.

Attending the Pride parade on Sunday? PLEASE READ…

The Truth is…

As my mother used to say, “The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.” While my choice of haircut isn’t really the issue at hand here, the close shave of negativity and brush with ignorance I have observed this week is really at the heart of this letter. This week in particular has exposed to me an element of my community I have never really been involved with or, to be candid, paid much attention to… Activists. For the record, I have no issues with activism and certainly I suppose I could have been seen as an “activist” at various times through the last decade. Secretly I’d tell myself if I can change a mind or heart just by being me, presenting the facts or alternate views, it can only better the community I’m a part of.

The community I identify with has been marginalized, attacked, deprived in many cases of basic human decency or rights, criminalized, brutalized and murdered for nothing more than who they love. I consider myself rather fortunate that perhaps the reason I don’t need to be an “activist” in this day in age is because the generations before me have surfaced a street in tears and blood. I have taken advantage of those rights. I have a good paying job, a nice house, and I’m married to a man of the same gender. Stonewall riots of 1969 for instance; seem almost beyond my abilities to comprehend. My husband and I visited the Stonewall Inn 5 years ago and while undeniably thought provoking, the peaceful park across the street hardly gave acceptance to the idea that those streets were filled with protesters, who were then deprived of what are now basic human rights.

The last week has forced me to become an activist against my will. On the far right, I hear people like “conservative” radio talk show host Nick Vandergragt blasting members of provincial parliament who dare to stand beside their fellow elected officials while we raise the rainbow flag at Ottawa city hall. On the far left, social media is a buzz with comments about how conservatives should be “banned from marching” in Sunday’sgay pride parade given their voting track record on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans issues.

I am an openly gay, married conservative. I chose many years ago to not be an activist but rather an advocate. (Yes, I feel there is a difference) I am a card carrying member of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and everyday within my own community, I have to “come out,” as it were. I have to listen to people on both sides of the political spectrum belittle me, question my motives and in some cases refrain from talking to me all together as if they might catch the conservative bug. I chose to be an advocate for LGBT issues in a party that, in perfect honesty, needed to wake up. I chose instead to stand on the inside and ask the party to change rather than stand on the outside throwing stones and expecting it to change. You can lead a human to knowledge, but you can’t make them think.

Many years ago I met a pretty spectacular community leader named Lisa MacLeod. She was elected to the Ontario legislature in 2006 for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and she was the daughter of Danny MacLeod a town councilor from Nova Scotia. The first time I met her, she hugged me. Last night when I saw her, she hugged my husband and me. From what I’ve heard, much like her father, she doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, what gender you identify with or what your sexual orientation is, you are a human-being deserving of respect. Her father, a staunch conservative, marched in the gay pride parade in rural Nova Scotia many years before that was acceptable. When the abused women’s shelter my sister works at closed, Lisa stood in the legislature and demanded to know why and ultimately helped it reopen. When Jamie Hubley was being bullied at school for being gay and sadly committed suicide, I sat in the gallery as she stood in the legislature and with an emotional plea to the government at the time, demanded to know what EVERYONE in that room, regardless of political stripe, was going to do about it. When a transgender child sat in the gallery asking for the same rights as everyone else, Lisa MacLeod cried in her statement and fought for it. And lastly when I think of why I am involved in the Progressive Conservative party, I remember I support advocates like Lisa MacLeod because they support advocates like me. The introduction of an organization called LGBTory has really sparked a debate after a first time appearance in the Toronto Pride parade a few weeks ago.

“May 2015, a group of Toronto Conservatives got together to found the Rainbow Conservative initiative. [They] work to provide an LGBT voice within the party, and a Conservative voice in the LGBT community.”

Many of my Toronto based friends; people like Jamie Ellerton and Jeffery Kroeker (Both past PC Employees) are founders of this organization. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that upon first hearing of this new grassroots organization, I immediately felt at home within my own community for the first time. Quickly thereafter, I was told on social media that by “replacing” the letter “T” (Transgender) with “Tory” we have expunged the contributions of Trans persons from their rightful place in the community, and in all honesty, I had never thought of it like that. Not because I was closed minded, but perhaps naively I thought each letter had many different meanings much like “Q” often represents Queer or Questioning.

I was offended that people would think I did this in some malicious attempt to downplay the significance of Trans people within my community. I was offended that some people in the Trans community would think that I thought they were anything less than amazingly strong individuals who I respected beyond words. I was offended that I was being painted as the very thing within my Party that I have tried so hard to change. In that moment I was nothing more than a bigoted, homophobic conservative. Trying to explain myself to Jay Koornstra and Joanne Law at the flag raising at City hall, I literally welled up with tears and developed an emotional voice cracking with fear. “How can they think I’m doing this out of hatred?” I thought. “It’s taken me and many others like me a very long time to get conservatives marching in this parade.” I said, nearly crying.

One of the proudest moments of my life was attending the first ever Trans flag unfurling at the Ottawa Police station, and hugging people like Amanda Ryan and Zelda Marshall whom I’d known for years. I hugged them out of sheer jubilation and pride for them, that maybe somehow; I was able to be a part of their long overdue victory.

If my friends, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgender, allied or otherwise feel that I have somehow slighted them by my very presence or by attending with a group of conservatives who I believe have taken steps, no matter how recent, to support me and my community, for that I am truly sorry. It is not my intention to make you any less proud of our day.

I would finish by asking you the question. If your mother, father or any family member for that matter kicked you out of your home, abused you, disowned you because of who are and yet you made amends with them years later, if they were willing, would you let them march with you in the parade? I realize it’s not ideal for many, but these people are my family and I think it’s important that I and many others march with them, if only to move past the years of hurt, abandonment and pain.

Alex Lewis

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