Are We Really Progressive?

Let's stop telling people who they can love and start dealing with real problems

Protest in Sacramento in 2008 against the passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California (photo: Shutterstock)
Protest in Sacramento in 2008 against the passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California (photo: Shutterstock)

When I was a teenager, I wasn’t very open minded. I grew up in a small farming town surrounded by other small farming towns. Most everyone in town was white, and the only thing considered taboo was if your neighbour bought a car that didn’t say Ford, Dodge or Chevrolet on the hood.

I took that small-town lack of cultural diversity into high school — where I was blindsided. High school for me was filled with people from different nationalities, religions, and social backgrounds. It was social sensory overload for the first year, really. I was lucky enough to become best friends with a guy who had a very open view of the world. His parents (both teachers) had travelled the world and had taught my friend about the differences between people and how to respect them.

As I grew older, learned more of the world, and went through a lot of personal adversity, two things happened. First, I became agnostic after having grown up Catholic and even serving as an altar boy as a child. Second, I began to look at the people around me not as black, white, asian, native, straight or gay but rather just as people. The latter of these changes continued to evolve until the birth of my daughter which solidified my views of the world.

I remember once speaking with a man who said that, if his child revealed that he was gay, he would probably disown him.

My jaw hit the floor and, when I told him that I couldn’t believe what he was saying, he told me that I would feel the same way. I went on to explain that my daughter is the centre of my world and, if one day she came to me to tell me that she was gay, I would love her even more for having the courage to be who she is. This man called me a liar and the conversation quickly came to an end.

What I told him that day is the absolute truth and I stand by those words. Who someone loves doesn’t define their worth as human being, and it certainly doesn’t mean they deserve to have their basic rights taken away.

This week, social issues like homosexuality and abortion have been thrown into the limelight once more.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling effectively makes same-sex marriage in California legal (again), increasing to 13 the number of states that allow it. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne — Canada’s first openly gay premier — is set to become the first premier to march in the Toronto gay pride parade, which I applaud her for.

But while these positive things are happening, Texas was on the verge of virtually outlawing abortion and a woman’s right to choose.

These two issues seem to be so divisive even locally.

Dean Del Mastro, MP - Peterborough (photo by Conservative Party of Canada)
Dean Del Mastro, MP - Peterborough (photo by Conservative Party of Canada)
On one side, there are people like me who feel that everyone deserves the same rights and that old white men have no right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her reproductive system.

On the other side, there are people like our very own MP Dean Del Mastro who just last year was trying to push legislation to define when life begins in terms of the laws on abortion, an effort that was no doubt intended to change the laws and place extensive limits on women in Canada.

And last weekend, when I drove by the Medical Centre on Hospital Drive in Peterborough, an army of white-haired, close-minded folks were marching with signs quoting their disgust with abortion. Something tells me these people don’t have a glowing opinion of gay marriage either.

A lot of this is fueled by religion. Another portion by fear of the unknown. All of it, however, is fueled by ignorance and good old-fashioned bigotry.

We live in a world of real problems — impending economic and environmental collapse to name just a couple. Yet every once in a while, our governments get sidetracked with debating these issues that have been debated a million times before. This can be attributed to the Right leaning further to the Right than ever, and the perpetuation of hate from previous generations.

Think about it: babies aren’t born with an inherent disdain of homosexuality. It’s something that’s taught to them by the generations before them, or by friends at school who were impacted by their parents and grandparents.

I guess my point is this: who someone loves or what a woman decides to do with her unborn fetus are none of your damn business. If you have a belief system, I’m happy for you — but it’s your belief system. If you have a moral compass instilled in you by your religious beliefs, I’m happy that you have the dedication to live by that compass — but it’s your compass.

So go ahead, weekend sign-holding sidewalk judgers, but know that church and state don’t mix. Go ahead and march to accomplish nothing. Show your fellow citizens how square minded and backwards you can be, but know that the things you fear surround you everywhere you go. Those “awful gays” (a term I’ve actually heard in person in the last month) are everywhere. They’re the teacher at your kid’s school. They’re the chef at your favourite restaurant. They’re the couple doing an amazing job parenting their adoptive children.

What’s the saddest part is that — while you sit back with a foul look on your face, filled with hate in the pit of your stomach that you can’t rationalize — those other people are living their lives, filled with love.