We just got new neighbours and sometimes the internet is the perfect place to share/vent. The very “friendly” family is also latently homophobic. The one son knows we are gay. He was surprised at first. He told us he is ‘fine with it’ but let me know that his parents aren’t. Today’s update: they think you are “rotten”. Awesome. Kid, that’s one to keep to yourself. #nofilter
I want to ask them: why did you move to Canada if you were not interested in the values of acceptance and diversity; but there’s the rub, the same freedom that entices, attracts and welcomes a family from Iraq, to move into the sleepy suburbs of the GTA (that’s the Six, for you out of towners) is the same value that allows you to harbour those views. Because it is a freedom to believe what you do. But I have lived here my entire life. My family is not indigenous, and this land never belonged to us; recognizing the gift and privilege of living here, I have always been aware of how lucky I am. As a 5th generation Canadian, I am lucky beyond measure, and spend my days as a teacher, teaching English, Dance, Drama, yes… but mostly, teaching new generations of students to be aware of the value and beauty of their differences; teaching students of diverse religions to know me as a human being; to see the dignity in one another; to know that whatever oppression we have each faced, we should see that pain as something we want to remove for others – not perpetuate.
I spend my entire career, going on ten years now, looking into young faces, teaching them to be proud of who they are. I am a 35-year-old, white, able-bodied, English speaking, educated, queer woman. Most of my classes are students who are born outside of Canada, the majority learned another language before English. Never has a student of mine made me feel that I was less deserving of dignity, respect and kindness; of all those kids who I have gotten to know and love over the course of 90 days together in a semester, none who have looked at my face, heard my stories, shared theirs…made me feel that even though our experiences widely vary they couldn’t see me as a human being.
Why come from a place ravaged by decades of war, to a continent rife with intolerance towards immigrants, with new pointed policies that marginalize, only to find a friendly, warm set of neighbours and bring hate with you – hate in your heart for an outstretched hand?
I often think about it this way: I don’t find YOUR wife attractive. I don’t want to imagine the intimacies of 99% of the happy couples I see on a day to day basis (or unhappy, but that’s beside the point); but me not wanting to picture the physicality of your relationship, or not understanding how you get through a day with the people you choose to surround yourself with, or even finding a disconnect in the way you believe that God manifests in your life… doesn’t mean that I should deny you that right, or behave in a way that makes you feel unsafe.
If you don’t understand my ‘attraction to women’ or my ‘lifestyle’… that’s fine. You don’t need to. If I asked you imagine, how does YOUR wife find it in her heart to have sex with a man? You don’t have to understand her attraction. If you find it repellent… not a problem… you don’t have to sleep with yourself. It isn’t your right to condone or condemn the love between other people. Just your own.
It’s a reminder of the privilege some have and some don’t: can you be sure your neighbours will be kind and respectful? I often enjoy the bubble of feeling like so much progress has happened that I’m immune to the bullshit.
This is your home. But it is also my home.
And I won’t let your intolerance and ignorance make me change. I don’t want to view strangers as statistics for religious intolerance, small-mindedness, fear-mongering or stereotypes. You are one person, a few people, who unfortunately don’t have enough love in your hearts to be warm and open to the diversity of people who make up your community. I will not change for you.