Halifax has seven Universities, making it one of the most educated cities in North America. One of those schools is Dalhousie University, home of the Dal Tigers, and also home of DalOUT, one of the most vibrant queer student associations around. We joined the DalOUT gang at the Grad House, a campus pub which is the Place to Be on Wednesday nites. They even have Karaoke, which we hear some of the Dal students are stars at. Maybe we’ll tape-record an upcoming show and put it on the site next time we’re in town.
It was kinda hard to hear everybody over the music and the crowd, but we managed. The Dal folks had some pretty strong opinions about everything that’s happening in the world today.
YGA: So what do you wanna talk about?
PETER: First, I want to say something about stereotypes. I think it’s important that people realize that if you’re queer you don’t have to act a certain way, you don’t have to wear makeup, you don’t have to run around prancing at Adultfrienedfinder. You can just be yourself.
DAWNETTA: I agree, there’s nothing worse than having somebody tell you “she’s not your girlfriend! You can’t be gay! You don’t look the part!”
ROBIN: I get that all the time because I don’t look stereotypical. People always say “oh you’re just in college, you’re just experimenting.
YGA: Do you think when people come out they latch on to a particular identity?
PETER: I think they latch on to what they see, in the media and other places. Will & Grace…
YGA: Is there a prescription for an appropriate way to be?
PETER: No, nothing is more appropriate. You just don’t have to feel the need to emulate what’s being presented to you.
ALISA: It’s funny the most discrimination I get like that is from within the gay community, like other lesbians telling me I shouldn’t look this way or that way.
DAWNETTA: Why can’t look more like this, be more like that…
ROBIN: I get much more of that from the gay community than from my straight friends too.
PETER: It’s so stupid! Like, if you don’t listen to Madonna you can’t be gay…
YGA: Well it’s been a while since we’ve had one of these discussions and a lot has happened with the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the “war on terrorism” that’s now in full-swing. Let’s just open the floor to your thoughts on everything that’s been happening in the last few weeks. As Canadians, how has this affected your lives?
SAM: I think it’s been kind of interesting how people compare the attacks to Pearl Harbor. It’s great to see that some things really have changed since then. For instance, I think we learned from things like the Japanese internment camps (in WWII) and now we’re taking a strong stand against Arabic persecution on our own soil. It’s encouraging. Same goes with right-wing christian groups who blamed the attacks on “homosexuals and abortionists”…that kind of thing is just not being tolerated. These are good signs of progress.
YGA: It’s almost kinda hilarious to hear what Fred Phelps says now…it’s so insane it totally discredits him and makes him look like a fool.
SAM: Exactly. He’s not in tune with the rest of the public.
PETER: If I had to have one reaction to this whole thing it would be…you can’t fight terrorism with terrorism. That’s really what the American’s are doing. They keep calling this the first war of the 21st Century and I say we’re in the 21st Centruy we shouldn’t be having a war. If the Americans had any sense at all they’d be like “c’mon, let’s bring this to the table. Let’s look at other options and think really carefully about what we should do.”
SAM: Also it’s not even a war. The Afghanis can’t fight back.
TYSON: I think it’s funny how they’re commercializing everything. With racism on TV, for example. I mean it’s nice now that they’re putting commercials on TV that are trying to be inclusive… like I saw one commercial with a black guy cop and a white guy criminal, breaking the stereotype a little bit, but…
TOR: …But it sorta seems bittersweet. Like ‘too little too late.’
TYSON: Yea. It’s all such propoganda. Like suddenly there’s no more racism or other social problems. It’s just America’s War! Everything on TV is America Fights Back, America’s War… they’re totally glorifying it.
SAM: It’s interesting how much more hesitant Canadians have been, and we’ve taken flack for that. There was a Canadian town hall on CBC which got tons of emails from Americans upset by the fact that we weren’t supporting them flll-out. Probably it’s just a national thing, Canada’s always been more tolerant and less violent.
PETER: Aside from that, it didn’t happen in Canada.
SAM: Even Alexa McDunnough (Canadian new democratic party leader) has stood up against the bombings and she always gets criticized. It’s like there’s no place at all for discussion.
PETER: It’s definitely been a total cut-down of freedom of speech.
TOR: Bush is like: you’re either with us or with the terrorists. Like there’s no other choice!
EVERYONE NODS AND AGREES
TOR: It’s the whole Communist thing all over again. Why can‘t there be something in between?
SAM: There was an excellent article in the Onion (www.Onion.com): Americans Asked To Give Up Personal Liberties to Support Government.
WIL: And now with these new laws… where you can accuse anybody without witnesses. That stuff is frightening.
YGA: Has anyone felt at all like life stopped having meaning? That some things have just lost their importance. Even just for a moment…?
TOR: I definitely have. Seeing how history’s repeating itself, that’s the most frustrating thing. You can be arrested now if suspected of being a terrorist and it leads to a witch-hunt. If you want to tie in the gay aspect. You could say this person’s gay and so we can do this to him… just like in Nazi Germany…
YGA: Does that make you afraid?
TOR: No, not in the gay aspect. I think… I hope… we’re over that. But for other people, innocent Muslim people, for example.
LEEANNE: It’s really interesting there was a recent editorial in the paper investigating anti-terrorist laws. Apparently there were laws proposed in the 1980’s that, if enacted, would have made it illegal for groups to fund Nelson Mandela.
TYSON: To go back to what Tor was saying, how Bush says if you’re not with us you’re with the terorists. That makes me scared. Our Governer General stressed that Canada’s a peacekeeping nation, but the way we sent our ships out 3 of the 4 ships were armed! They say our ships aren’t in combat but we’re gonna end up fighting YOUR war.
YGA: Whoa dude! It ain’t our war!
NATASHA: I could be reiterating here but I don’t understand how it’s only when America gets bombed that something happens. Terrorism has been around forever…this idea of a NEW war on terrorism doesn’t make sense.
SHAMUS: That’s because it’s not a war on terrorism, it’s a war on America’s enemies.
DAWNETA: It’s all about capitalism and OIL. The total lack of HUMANITY that America has now scares me. Not just for the Afghani innocents but people in other country who have to face America’s crap. It’s not fair. The whole reason the terrorists hate America is because of everything America’s done to their people and their countries.
NATASHA: I agree, and I’m even American.
DAWNETTA: Well I think even Canadians buy into all this propoganda. I have a friend who I thought was a lot more open-minded, but recently he brought me into his views and they really scared me. He doesn’t even see peaceful resolve as an option. He doesn’t even see the real reason for this… he claims it’s still a Holy war.
BLAIR: I think it’s funny how people bring God into it, almost to coax people into it. Like it’s somehow UNHOLY if you disagree with war.
DAWNETTA: Most Americans seem to feel the terroism attack was not just an attack on the Trade Center and the econmoy but on everything America stands for.. including Christianity.
YGA: The irony of that being that what America stands for is acceptance of all faiths.
YGA: James, where are you from?
JAMES: Cape Breton.
YGA: Where’s Cape Breton?
JAMES: It’s an island which is part of Nova Scotia.
YGA: And what’s it like to be a gay person in Cape Breton.
EVERYONE: There are gay people in Cape Breton!?!!
JAMES: Virtually nonexistent.
YGA: Are you out up there?
JAMES: To a few people, a small group of friends. Everyone’s fine with it.
DAWNETTA: Nobody in the history of St. Anthony, Newfoundland, where I’m from, has EVER dared to come out. You’d be put on trial and stoned to death.
YGA: What about the rest of you?
TYSON: Shamus paved the way for all of us at my High School.
YGA: Where was that?
TYSON: Spryfield (near Halifax). He wasn’t necessarily the first person to come out, he was just one of those names of people we knew we could talk to. We had a teen resource center and health center and he used to come back after graduation and sorta be a familiar gay face.
LEE: I’m from Truro and we have the largest high school in the province but it’s also the most homophobic. You don’t tell anybody.
ROBIN: You don’t come out in our high school.
LEE: I mean, I’m sure there were a few out of the 2000 or so people there. There were letters to the school newspaper about people who were gay but wouldn’t come out, and sometimes people would be called a fag and it would be a big joke. But no one really came out, which is surprising for a large city.
LISA: I had an entirely different experience, and I’m a lot older too. In 1987 when we graduated from high school two boys went to the prom together.
LEE: No way, in 1999 two girls tried to do that and the school wouldn’t let them buy tickets. They eventually let them, but not without a fight.
LISA: I think a lot of what made my school that way was the French influence. We were in a suburb of Montreal…you’re just more exposed to stuff like that.
YGA: Tyson, just briefly you mentioned racism earlier and I wanted to ask: people often say being black and gay means you have to deal with double the prejudice. What do you think about that?
TYSON: It’s funny you ask because I always wonder to myself if I’m a Black Gay male, or a Gay Black male. I think being gay is second, even though they’re both important, just because at age two I knew I was black before I knew I was gay. What’s interesting is how easy it was for me to come out. I mean, I thought it was going to be hard, but I had a lot more burden on myself than what actually happened. What shocked me the most was that it was easier to come out to my black friends than my white friends. I thought it would be the opposite.
YGA: Is the world getting better, or are we just going in cycles?
LEE: I think it’s getting better but then I read the news online.
TYSON: We’re going in cycles. Back in history there were times when it was a LOT more gay and progressive, before Christianity.
ALEX: Even Germany, before WWII and the Nazi persecution. The 30’s were very liberal in Europe. The Holocaust put a huge depression on gay rights.
LEE: Now you see all these companies that try to endorse gay-related issues, opening up to the gay market.. but it’s all just for money,.
LISA: It’s all just corporate.
YGA: It that a bad thing?
LEAANNE: There’s a positive side too because people are exposed to it through the mass-media, even if that is kinda portraying stereotypes.
LEE: Just look at the way Reflections (Halifax’s most popular gay bar / danceclub) changed.
LEAANNE: Yea it’s getting worse but trying to get better.
LEE: Now there are fights every Friday night because the thugs come.
(Note: the week after this interview, Rejections changed its Friday night. They fired the person who ran the night which was called Baseline and re-named it Lift, and decided to take the music away from pure techno and into something a bit lighter. For more on this topic check out our article called: Are Gay Clubs Just Too Cool?)
WIL: in the long run, things are getting better. It’s no longer illegal just to be us.
LEAANNE: Yet there are still immigration laws in the US that forbid homosexuality.
ALEX: It is getting better. Although it might have been more liberal in the past, it wasn’t intitutionalized. Not included in the permanent structure of the law. Now it’s written in ink.
SHAMUS: It’s not black and white. History’s not linear. There’s always gonna be good and bad.
YGA: Well if that’s true, then what can… or should… we do as individuals?
TOR: I think it’s especially important, especially with the terrorist situation, that we don’t sit by and watch things idly go by and be afraid to say what we think. The media and the politicians might think the war is the right thing to do. But here we are talking and the majority of us are completely against it.
TOR: I think that by voicing our opinions we can change things.
YGA: As Canadians, what would you say as a piece advice to all the Americans who might feel confused by everything that’s going on.
SCOTT: Don’t let the media scare you as much as they’re trying to. They always focus on the negative.
YGA: Where else, if not media, can people get information?
ALEX: Academia. Books.
SAM: Forums like YGA. Get your own group together and share your ideas with each other. There is a lot of support out there.
TOR: Just don’t be afraid to speak your mind.