As Pride month wrapped up, I decided to pen my contribution to the whole global celebrations. Acceptance and equality for people who identify along the LGBTQ spectrum are the civil rights issues of our time. It has been half a century since the Stonewall rebellion, almost my entire time on planet earth.
Although progress has quickly come in different facets, in the forms of a gay U.S. presidential candidate, Canadian MPs, and premiers, European prime ministers, senators in the Americas, the struggle against prejudice has been Brobdingnagian. Even yours truly has been an unwitting participant.
Fideistically African, my trinity of unflappable beliefs come in the following order: family, God (both mono and polytheistically), and education; literally in that order. After attending my first Pride parade ever, the circumstance which I will return to later, a sense of enlightenment washed over me like the classical pentecostalism celebrated in evangelical churches.
To the best of my knowledge, I had never discriminated against other people's “sexual preferences”, and I heartily applauded the legislations that banned the widely discredited, tortuous practice of reparative treatments that attempt to change an individual's sexual preferences or suppress their attraction or feelings toward people of the same sex. While stroking my own back, it quickly dawned on me that I had not really been a friend of the LGTBQ community.
Bigotry would be a more appropriate categorization of my persona. My actions and thoughts had not been operating on the same frequency. Sometimes, the choices of words that one uses are revealing enough to elucidate the thinking of the soul. What better enucleation is there of "sexual preferences", as if homosexuality is a choice or a lifestyle.
Flashes of supercilious episodes coursed my mind. Despite being a science-trained educator and accepting my students in their different forms and shapes, one of the ironical episodes that came to my mind was when I was buying a smartphone for a college-bound relative who wanted a particular colour of the phone. Extraneously, I never bought the phone because of the colour and the gender that I associated with it.
I suppose that's not a very befitting attribute of a self-described Christian. What would Christ have done if he were in my shoes? Your guess is as good as mine.
However, when the pope was interviewed on a related topic by America magazine in 2013 at the beginning of his papacy, he affectionately revealed his pastoral approach to the LGBTQ community saying that, “God considers, endorses, and looks at the existence of every person with love, and who am I to judge that person or God?”
This statement sent a tsunami throughout the church, signalling its evolution. That is evolutionary, especially for an institution that referred to homosexuality as a slander to the Apostles’ Creed, just about two decades earlier; that is also a very welcoming development.
Back to my presence at the Pride parade, I enjoyed the gathering and I met wonderfully interesting and joyous people. It was quite gratifying exchanging handshakes and hugs with present and past students, colleagues and friends alike.
The sad part was that I had not gone to the parade, even out of curiosity. I had gone to solicit signatures for the reinstatement petition of the BC Human Rights Commission, legislation that is being proposed by the NDP ruling party in the B.C. Legislature. After some reflection, I felt like one of those disingenuous politicians who would go to any length to canvass for votes in the coming elections, only to disappear into oblivion there after.
Coincidentally, some of the attendees were asking if I was running for an elective office, maybe because my friend and former colleague Dan Davies was also there. Providentially, I am not running for any office for my conscience would have tormented me incessantly. Epiphanically, I came to realize that this community should not be considered as pawns on a chessboard.
If any of you reading this article is, or know of someone who is, a member of the LGTBQ community, please accept my sincere apology for transacting with your human rights' vulnerability and join us to work for a B.C. free of discrimination, where there will be no need for a commission and everyone will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
To my fellow “decent and accepting” Christians, I am urging you to practice our universal Christian dogma that God is love. I know that many of you have not bought the bogus, pseudo-science behind the conversion therapy pandered by some social evangelicals, but remember that bystanding is not enough. If you do not know an LGBTQ person, seek one out, become their friend, invite them to your house for a meal.
In atoning for my bias, I beseech anyone reading this article that happens to be (or know of someone who is) a member of the LGTBQ community to please accept my sincere apology for transacting with your human rights' vulnerability and join us to work for a BC free of discrimination, where there will be no need for a commission, and everyone will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
I will be back next year without panhandling for signatures, I promise.
I would like to end this piece by reverting to my religious root and quoting one of my favourite catholic hymns:
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand;
We will work with each other, we will work side by side;
And together we'll spread the news that Love is in our land.
Donald Fajemisin, an NDP member, is an educator and a resident of Fort St. John.