On November 3, Jane Currie and her partner, Anji Dimitriou, were assaulted by a man as they were picking up their children after school. The same man had verbally abused them on previous occasions. This time, the man swore at Anji, accused her of talking to his child, spat in her face, and then attacked her without warning. When Jane intervened, she was hit as well, until other parents intervened. Jane needed four stitches to close cut on her cheek; both have black eyes. Mark Scott, 43, was charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm.
Jane and Anji want Mark charged with hate crimes. Oshawa Police are reported to be "investigating", but say that charging someone with hate crimes is usually up to the Crown attorney's office.
Why is this being debated? The fact that a physical assault is accompanied by slurs such as "fucking dyke bitches" cannot be a coincidence. Violence against a person based on race, religion, or sexual orientation is a hate crime. Being a lesbian is not a crime; attacking someone for no other reason than that she is a lesbian is. Can anyone really imagine the public reaction if a straight couple, picking up their children from school, had been viciously beaten simply because they were straight? Keep in mind also how the public would have reacted if a man had viciously beaten a single woman.
As I continue to ponder the significance of Remembrance Day, it occurs to me that the gay community would do well to recognize the importance of its own remembrance - of the accomplishments made by those who fought the battle for gay rights, and the acknowledgement that the battle is not over. Americans celebrate the election of their first black president, and yet the same election put up barriers to gay marriage in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida, and rolled back the right to gay marriage in California. While gays in Canada appreciate how far ahead we are in acceptance from the straight community, the assault on Jane and Anji is a disturbing reminder of the neanderthals still out there whose ignorance and hatred can lead not only to violence, but the creation of a new generation of bigotry. Remember, Mark Scott is a father.
June 2009 seems a long way away; we still have to get through winter. But come the end of June, gays will be out in the streets, celebrating another Pride week of parties and festivities. For those who are too young to remember Stonewall in NYC and the bathhouse raids in Toronto, Pride Week is just an excuse to party. But it is much more than that. It is our Remembrance Day. It is a reminder of the days when it was ok to openly discriminate against gays, when gays had to fear being "out" in public, when being gay was looked upon as a disorder, when we had to fight for our rights. Today we have to fight complacency, and remember that the atmosphere we enjoy did not exist 30 short years ago. And clearly, we are not at the finish line yet.
One day, gay activism will be obsolete. In the meantime, there is work to be done.
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