This column is guaranteed 100% gay - Macleans.ca
 

This column is guaranteed 100% gay

Emma Teitel on why America’s Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is still important in Canada—and to her, personally


 
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Listen to Emma Teitel read her column, or subscribe to Maclean’s Voices on iTunes or Stitcher for on-the-go listening:

Since I began writing this column four years ago, I have received an abundance of hate mail, most of it from the same place: Burnaby, B.C., the third-largest city in that province—also, paradoxically, the hometown of two of the nation’s friendliest Michaels: Michael J. Fox and Michael Bublé. Burnaby is probably a very lovely place with equally lovely people, but the bulk of the mail I receive from the city tends to sound like this: “Dear Ms. Teitel, I’m not homophobic, but I don’t care that you are gay, so please stop reminding me. Your column is not a soapbox for you to rant about your lifestyle.”

The odd thing about these missives (sent from different emails and sometimes signed by named readers) is that I receive them not only in relation to columns I’ve written on gay issues, but in relation to columns I’ve written on just about anything. From Ontario’s updated sex-ed curriculum to smoking on restaurant patios to the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, readers in Burnaby would like to know why I insist on hitting them over the head with my sexuality—a sexuality so pronounced, apparently, that it manages to sneak its way into everything I write, subjects from Stephen Harper to Olympic hockey. (Me: “Go Canada Go!” Burnaby reader: “Enough with the homosexual agenda already!”)

Clearly, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, and even damned if I join the infamous international same-sex cabal and try to shoehorn my agenda into the space between the actual words on the page. Which is why I’ve decided to go full, non-innuendo gay this week and announce that, not only am I getting engaged to my girlfriend of five years, but we have decided to honeymoon, at least in part, in Burnaby. That’s right: Ibiza, Fiji, San Francisco, Burnaby. All the gay hot spots.

But seriously: For anyone unfamiliar with journalism lingo, the above is what’s known as “burying the lead.” Here’s the lead: I’m engaged. And not only am I engaged, but I became engaged the same year same-sex marriage rocketed into the stratosphere at the speed of light. Two big launches led the way: Ireland becoming the first country to endorse the legality of gay marriage through a citizens’ referendum in May; and the U.S. Supreme Court deciding just last month, in a historic 5-4 vote (also just in time for gay Pride), that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. In the words of American Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy: “Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these [gay] men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.” (I hear the tax breaks aren’t bad, either). The Irish event was unprecedented—it is nice to know conclusively that your countrymen support your right to wed—but the American decision is psychologically transformative.

America is, in the minds of many, the centre of the universe. It is where the asteroid lands in all those blockbuster movies; it’s where our favourite stars and soda brands are created. America is the epitome of mainstream.

That’s why, when I proposed to my girlfriend last week, I was nervous, but for entirely ordinary reasons. Would she say yes? If she said no, would we break up or continue dating as though nothing had happened? Or would I pretend the ring was a gag gift made of cubic zirconia that I would then return discreetly and never mention again? My nervousness had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was proposing to a member of the same sex. In fact, the landmark ruling in the States made gay marriage seem suddenly, painfully conventional. Sure, it’s been legal in Canada since the early 2000s—in Burnaby even—but nothing takes the edge off something taboo better than American acceptance.

Many have argued, in the days following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, that there is a danger in convention—that North America still has a long way to go, where LGBT rights are concerned, particularly trans rights. As Ted Johnson and Brent Lang pointed out in Variety recently, progress has its setbacks. “The biggest challenge [for LGBT Americans], beyond housing and employment, is perception,” they write. “Activists worry about complacency in the LGBT community.”

But we shouldn’t confuse complacency with much-needed celebration. My fiancée and I haven’t picked a date yet, but I’m thinking June next year. And Burnaby, you’re invited.


 

This column is guaranteed 100% gay

  1. “America is, in the minds of many, the centre of the universe. It is where the asteroid lands in all those blockbuster movies…” Its one of those lines I wish I had written (and might just pretend I did). Congrats for the rest also.

  2. First, let me say “congrats”

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, but anyone else who CLAIMS to be a true Conservative (in the modern term) should also see that every person should have the right to be with whomever they love. You won’t find me at any PRIDE parades, but frankly, I wouldn’t go to any other parades either except for the fact I have a four year old son who happens to enjoy them.

    A true Conservative believes in the independence of the individual, and freedom from Government interference. I also believe that people have the right to disagree with anything they want if it goes against their individual belief system. In the case of same-sex marriage – if you are a dude and don’t want to marry another dude…then don’t do it. Same for women.

    Transgender issues: I don’t care if you are a man who wants to wear a dress, take hormones, or call yourself a woman. No skin off my back. However, if you want me to pay for your “transition” or insist that I call you “her” or “she” when I know damn well that you are not…sorry. You can’t pressure me into changing my mind or apologizing for hurting your feelings.

    As for your wedding…….when it happens, post your wedding photo’s in Macleans. That will really get you some email from these folks.

    • Thanks for the reminder of what it means to be a principled Conservative.
      I just wish I had an adopted sibling so I could honour those principles by telling them that they aren’t really my sibling, and my parents aren’t really theirs…sorry.

      What you “know damn well” could fit in an ant’s thimble.

      • Do you prefer the hypocritical brand of conservatism? Freedom from government intervention except on issues that offend your religious beliefs?

        • Do you prefer crabs or head lice?

          • Good point.

            Which brand of conservatism is head lice and which is crabs?

          • Carefuly boys….

            I think Tresus is making an offer.

      • Actually Tresus,

        the adopted brother or sister, would not be a biological sibling, and he or she would not be a biological relation to your parents. The child would be welcomed to the family as one of their own, but biologically they are no relation.

        The argument about “transgender” folks is not related, as this is not an agreement between a family to welcome and raise someone who needs a family; as one of their own. The argument is about someone born a male who determines that because HE feels like a woman, you MUST agree that HE is a woman. Sorry…..not gonna happen.

        • Actually James,

          the transgender person would not genetically be female. The person would be welcomed as a female, but genetically, they’re not.

          The argument about “adopted” folks is not related, as this is not an agreement amongst society to welcome someone who doesn’t identify with their birth gender. The argument is about someone born to other parents who determines that because he feels like their son, you MUST agree he is their son. Sorry…not gonna happen.

          • Tresus misunderstood:
            “Actually James,

            the transgender person would not genetically be female. The person would be welcomed as a female, but genetically, they’re not.”

            Ummm…yeah. that was my point entirely. that you missed it, is not surprising.

            Sort of in the same vein as the confused person in the asylum who THINKS he’s Napolean. He isn’t really…….but we keep him locked up for his safety, and that of others.

            the “transgender” on the other hand….for some reason has convinced society that he IS napolean. We even give him the uniform (and pay for it). It is not SOCIETY that agrees a man is a woman………only SOME in society actually buy into it. If you ask 100 folks on the street if Bruce Jenner is a man or a woman…they may give the ahh’s..and hmmm…sss…

            but we all know bruce is a dude. It is just that some of us are honest enough to say it out loud…..no matter who we piss off.

            As for adoption…..don’t see why you seem to think this apple is the same as that orange. Adoption is the mean to raise a child as your own…and you can call him son or her daughter, and love and raise them as your own. In your heart they are…but biologically, they are not.

            No more than Bruce jenner is biologically a woman.

          • ” In your heart they are…but biologically, they are not.”

            Ummm…yeah. that was my point entirely. that you missed it, is not surprising.

            the “adopted” on the other hand….for some reason has convinced society that he IS napolean.
            but we all know the adopted isn’t really the offspring of the alleged “parents”. It is just that some of us are honest enough to say it out loud…..no matter who we piss off.

            As for transgender…..don’t see why you seem to think this apple is the same as that orange. Transgender is the means inhabit the gender you believe yourself to be…and you can be called man or woman, and live as such.

          • Tresus,

            Your ability to misunderstand, or miss entirely the actual point being discussed is refreshing. I was starting to think that regressive genes were in danger. Guess they are alive in well in your family gene pool.

            An adopted child…knows he or she is adopted. And so does everyone else. That does not mean you do not love the child, or consider him or her your son or daughter.

            Transgender folks are not in the same category…which for some reason you can’t grasp. If we follow your logic…..you could believe yourself to be a Unicorn, with fairy wings and pixie dust….and we would all have to agree with you to make YOU feel good. Sorry….I don’t give a damn. You aren’t a unicorn, and that stuff you been ingesting, clearly isn’t pixie dust.

            Just go back to your game-boy, and leave the grown ups to discuss the big issues. You are not only embarrassing yourself…you are making me feel embarrassed for you.

          • jameshalifax,

            Your ability to misunderstand, or miss entirely the actual point being discussed is refreshing. I was starting to think that regressive genes were in danger. Guess they are alive in well in your family gene pool.

            An transgender person…knows he or she was born with different genitalia. And so does everyone else. That does not mean you do not love the person, or consider him or her a male or female.

            Adopted folks are not in the same category…which for some reason you can’t grasp. If we follow your logic…..you could believe yourself to be a Unicorn, with fairy wings and pixie dust….and we would all have to agree with you to make YOU feel good. Sorry….I don’t give a damn. You aren’t a unicorn, and that stuff you been ingesting, clearly isn’t pixie dust.

            Just go back to your game-boy, and leave the grown ups to discuss the big issues. You are not only embarrassing yourself…you are making me feel embarrassed for you.

          • Tresus,

            I know you have difficulty thinking for yourself, however, your propensity to pass of my writing (with some ill-conceived editing showing you really have no clue what is being discussed) as your own is not surprising. In previous posts, you show that you often pass off others’ thinking as your own as well. Unfortunately, you seem to gravitate to folks who are as similarly confused as are you.

            Try this story.

            http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421108/vampires-identify-study-discrimination

            Apparently, the TRANSGENDERED folks can now take a back seat, as we have found contenders who are even more deranged; and we of couse have their “supporters” who want the rest of us to accept that which we know to be untrue.

            Group of folks are “sadded” that they are not being accepted as true “vampires” even though they drink real blood.

            You know the story…..sort of like a dude in a dress being saddened that we aren’t accepting him as a female….even though he dresses the part.

        • Apparently, the ADOPTED folks can now take a back seat, as we have found contenders who are even more deranged; and we of couse have their “supporters” who want the rest of us to accept that which we know to be untrue.

          Group of folks are “sadded” that they are not being accepted as true “vampires” even though they drink real blood.

          You know the story…..sort of like a dude being saddened that we aren’t accepting him as the “son” of the older people he lives with….even though he pretends he is.

          • I thought you were being deliberately obtuse,……

            but clearly, you really ARE that stupid.

            My sympathies to your family. Hopefully, you are the culmination of all the recessive genes in your family, and that any siblings you have will be more successful.

          • Give yourself full credit for making me look stupid.
            The brilliant illustration of the indistinguishability between acceptance of the adopted and the transgendered was all yours.
            I did little more than transcription.

          • Tresus wrote:

            “Give yourself full credit for making me look stupid.”

            Tresus…..that achievment is one you can claim as your own.

            And I bet you still don’t understand why.

          • Don’t worry about that, jameshalifax.
            It’s surely another of those things that you can’t explain or provide evidence to support, but can only assert because it so obviously just is and you just know it.

          • Tresus,

            The evidence of your stupidty is provided every time you hit the “post comment” button.

            I don’t need to make the effort…you do it for me.

          • ‘Obvious yet inexplicable’ it is!
            That was hard to predict.
            Careful, someone might think you’re my sock-puppet.

  3. I’ll start by saying congratulations — I wish you a very happy marriage.

    It is interesting to see how you explain that the changes in the US are important to you in Canada even though the effects are at distance. As a straight man, I am at even greater distance, however, this progress remains very relevant even to me. Progress in human rights has meaning to those who are not members of an equity seeking group as we often think of them. It reminds us that human progress is not limited to technology. It provides hope that we may overcome differences. But most of all through progress towards greater equality we affirm our value and potential as human beings, a value that is not limited to geography or to individual groups. So, as more LGBT individuals in more places have their human rights recognized, as a human being I feel I have something personal to celebrate. When it comes to human rights — we all should consider ourselves to be a part of an equity seeking group. Your equality in many respects is also mine and your celebration has meaning to me. I feel the same when it comes to gender equality and anti-racism.

    In that context, keep writing and keep sharing as all steps to greater recognition of human equality are directly relevant to all people — even if they don’t know it yet.

  4. Congratulations!

    Next up: Polyamory

  5. I am sad that you have such a low esteem for Canada and its culture that our laws don’t quite feel real unless they have gained “American acceptance”. Has the Harper view of Canada as a failed experiment taken hold in Canada? In June 2005 Harper said of the same sex law that “Because it’s being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians”. Did this revolting claim influence you? Canadian culture and laws certainly feel real to me. I feel involved in the continuing heritage of political discourse, the evolution of laws, our cuisine, our songs, our crafts, our way of life.

    Legalizing homosexuality was a huge step as far as human rights are concerned. After four decades of matrimony I still hold the view that I entered marriage with : marriage is a legal agreement creating obligations towards another person. It is less about human rights and more about obligations and benefits. I abhor the 21st century view of love = sex. I feel that two sisters can love each other profoundly, buy a house together, create bonds of dependence towards the other, until death do them apart. (Could they not adopt a child?) Is their love lessened in law because of the lack of sexual activity between them? They certainly don’t have access to the tax breaks you mention because their relationship in the eyes of the law is filial, not conjugal.

    I will not live another 40 years to read about your view of 40 years of marriage, but I do hope to read your reflections about your estrangement with Canada and its culture.

    My best wishes to you and your spouse.

  6. Congratulations!

    I, for one, enjoy reading your columns and appreciate the attention and perspective you bring to these (and other) issues and have never felt that your sexuality was unduly brought into the conversation (at least by you).

  7. I do not know how you can consider the following as “hate mail.” “The bulk of the mail I receive from the city tends to sound like this: “Dear Ms. Teitel, I’m not homophobic, but I don’t care that you are gay, so please stop reminding me. Your column is not a soapbox for you to rant about your lifestyle.” It is an opinion and the person didn’t say anything hateful. They were commenting that you are using your column as a soap box and it sounds that they may be finding it boring. I agree. Congratulations and enjoy your wedding.