Well, then. I guess a few people liked the post I put up in haste the other night, while simultaneously entertaining my almost three-year-old and responding to a flurry of Tweets. Or they disagreed with me, but felt compelled to read it. Either way, I'm grateful.
My reason for criticizing the choice of Laureen Harper as the ambassador for the Day of Pink was very clear to me. I believed strongly that we needed to make sure that queer/trans youth knew we had their backs -- not just in a symbolic sense, but politically too.
I remember when I testified in Ottawa in support of provincial legislation mandating gay-straight alliances in publicly funded schools. I listened to speakers from the Catholic board and the evangelical right use syrupy language to try and strategically remove the queerness from any anti-bullying efforts. They spoke of the need for "diversity clubs" and other meaningless monikers that obscure the specific and excruciating struggles that queer, trans and gender non-conforming youth face in schools.
We need to keep the focus on the specific experiences of kids like Leelah Alcorn, Blake Brockington and Jamie Hubley (may they rest in power and peace). And that means fighting school boards to ensure that queer/trans kids are supported and given spaces in which to meet. It means advocating for trans human rights legislation like Bill C-279 and naming and shaming the politicians like Don Plett who are holding back progress. And it also means holding LGBT organizations accountable when they choose respectability politics over the rights of the people they purport to serve.
I want to take a minute to address some of the criticism I have seen over the last couple of days. Much of it was thoughtful and I would like to acknowledge the people who engaged with me on Twitter and in other online spaces.
1. Why are you judging Laureen Harper by the actions of her husband?
I am judging Laureen Harper by her complicity in the Conservative publicity machine. See? She even has her own page on the party's website. She has stood by her husband during every election and has allowed herself to be used as a humanizing factor to help tone down his look of evil. (Well, that, a sweater vest and kittens). And her rather vapid statement in support of the Day of Pink did not make a single mention of queer or trans youth.
She has never made a public comment that contradicted the policies of the Conservative party. And Laureen certainly has not said a word about trans rights or Bill C-279. Should she choose to prove me wrong one day, I would be thrilled. But until that day arrives, she has positioned herself politically as Mrs. Harper and that is what I will call her.
2. Why are you wasting your energy criticizing a group that does good work?
Because this organization -- formerly known as Jer's Vision -- has re-branded itself as a national LGBT organization. By choosing the new name of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), this group is carving out a voice on the national stage. And that comes with responsibility. The fact that the CCGSD's first action out of the gate is to associate themselves with the Harpers is really bad news. It shows a preference for name recognition and banal "awareness-raising" over real justice for queer and trans youth. And their misstep only serves to benefit the politicians and right-wing evangelicals who would be thrilled to see queer and trans people banned from public bathrooms.
It seriously concerns me that the CCGSD's reaction to public criticism yesterday was either to invite people to have private conversations with them (and therefore take the conversation offline) or implying that critics were contributing to toxic activist cultures by not being kind enough. I and many others responded publicly to a very public piece of communication. The discussion and process of accountability should remain in the public sphere.
3. But have you heard the rumour about Laureen Harper?
I live in Ottawa and I have heard the rumours that Laureen may be a secret member of "the family." But unless she distinguishes herself from the Conservative machine, she's never going to be invited to any lesbian potlucks. To paraphrase an old Ani Difranco song, "I don't give a fuck who she's screwing in private, I wanna know who she's screwing in public."
This blog originally appeared on Queer Femme Mama and is reprinted with permission.
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