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June 2nd, 2005
By Gilles Marchildon
All in a daze:
Gay Pride Day, Heterosexual Day, Day Against Homophobia
Toronto City Councillor Shelley Carroll should talk to Yellowknife City Councillor Alan Woytuik. Maybe Carroll, a heterosexual mother, could help Woytuik see the light.
It is particularly timely that their comments be reported during the week leading up to the June 1st National Day Against Homophobia.
First, here’s what happened up North. Upon learning that the Mayor of Yellowknife had proclaimed June 10 as Gay Pride Day, Councillor Alan Woytuik suggested that June 9 be deemed Heterosexual Day. The Mayor and a majority of City Council agreed.
Woytuik told the CBC that “recognizing the contributions of heterosexuals is just as legitimate as recognizing the contributions of gay and lesbian communities.”
Another Yellowknife City Councillor expressed embarrassment that his colleagues would approve a Het Day in response to the annual request for Gay Pride Day. (N.B. Since drafting this column, City Council has withdrawn its motion to approve Het Day.) The request for Gay Pride Day was submitted by OutNorth which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited and transgendered (LGBT) community in Yellowknife.
In responding, members of OutNorth showed grace, humour and political smarts, sticking to the high road. The group issued a news release welcoming City Council’s decision.
“We thought every day was heterosexual day, but we’re pleased to have a special day to honour heterosexuals,” said Don Babey on behalf of OutNorth. “After all, some of our best friends are heterosexuals, along with our parents, siblings and co-workers,” he underlined.
After thanking Yellowknife City Council for acknowledging the LGBT community and the contributions of OutNorth, the group zeroed in with devastating effectiveness. “Will the city partner Black History month in February with White Heritage month later in the year? Will the days and weeks marking physical ailments, such as heart disease and strokes, be paired with an equal number of days that will celebrate good health? The city council may be on to a series of proclamations that will make us all proud.”
A similar issue erupted at Toronto City Council’s administration committee when Councillor Rob Ford expressed outrage at some of the grants given to community groups. He specifically targeted the $3,210 received by the Lesbian Gay Bi Youth phoneline, declaring: “I just want to know if we fund heterosexual youth that want to talk or have problems, because here, I don’t see anything under there, and I’ve looked through this.”
Councillor Shelley Carroll, taking a few seconds’ pause, responded eloquently. “I had to compose myself for a minute before I can even speak. I hope that the day people start getting the living daylights kicked out of them every day on the way home from school for being heterosexual, I hope that we’ll set up a phone line for them. I really hope we do.”
These two incidents underline the necessity of the National Day Against Homophobia. Held this year on June 1, the Day Against Homophobia was initiated by the Québec-based Fondation Émergence and is now commemorated by groups across Canada (http://www.homophobiaday.com).
When straight people get bashed to the same extent as LGBT people, we may indeed want to consider a national day to combat heterophobia.