The scars are invisible, but they’re as real as our winter rains and forever bubble below the surface, like a cauldron of water on a gentle boil.
Only when you talk to members of the LGBTQ community do you see them. You see them in eyes that sometimes look distant and hollow. You see them in pained gestures.
These scars speak to discrimination and bigotry. To abuse, both physical and verbal. To taunts, harassment and hate.
“I’ve been called a dyke, I’ve been spat on, called a fag, had a cigarette butt put out on me,” says Addison, a 22-year-old student and bartender. “I know butch lesbians who have been assaulted by men, just because they’re butch lesbians. And I know if two gay guys go into a place like Darcy’s they’ll be abused. Verbally for sure. And there’s a different kind of discrimination against girls and guys. Girls get sexually assaulted, guys get beat up.”
Brian is married to a man, has worked in the hospitality industry for a considerable number of his 50 years of drawing oxygen, and he initially submits that he’s “no longer exposed” to the taunts and slurs of the homophobes because he isn’t out and about as much as, say, 10 years ago.
“Things have changed,” he says.
Then he pauses for thought. He recalls an incident while working an event at Royal Athletic Park.
“I have no reason to out myself,” he says, “but someone else outed me there one day. I was a little uncomfortable after that. And then I thought, ‘Why do any of you give a fuck who I sleep with?’ Why is it a subject? I’m here to open a bottle of beer, pour it into a glass and hand it to a customer. So who gives a fuck? So, yeah, I still experience it. We still deal with that fear and we can’t let our guard down. We have to hold people’s feet to the fire.”
Art Luney, owner of The Castle Video Bar and Nightclub, was a victim of a gay bashing in the early ’90s.
“I was with my friend Ryan, who is quite a slight fellow,” he recalls. “One of the guys grabbed Ryan and just threw him over a parked car. I held my own, but I was scared shitless. It was very violent.”
Luney, a lawyer, speaks passionately about the civil rights gains the LGBTQ community has realized, such as same-sex marriage.
“Most important is that no one should kid themselves, regardless of the full rights Canadians have achieved through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that there is a 100 per cent acceptance of queers,” he says, his voice taking on a cautionary and defiant tone. “Just putting something on paper doesn’t make it a reality. There are forces that would like to see our rights diluted. We shouldn’t forget that. Discrimination is still very alive in this country. The war is not over. Not by a long shot. I will not let my vigilance down.” M