This spring marked 40 years since Parliament decriminalized homosexuality, in accordance with then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau’s maxim that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.
Once upon a time, the Ottawa police used to raid gay gatherings. Now they have a hate crimes unit and a GLBT Liaison Committee. Still, as Capital Pride ’09 begins today, I expect no last-minute funding announcements from the federal government’s Marquee Tourism Events Program, as there were for our jazz, blues and chamber music festivals.
The Tories, the only party in the House without an openly gay MP in their ranks, have walked an erratic line on pride celebrations. Minister of State for Tourism Diane Ablonczy, who vexed social conservatives by extending a $400,000 MTEP grant to the Toronto Pride Festival, was stripped of her responsibility for the fund. Montreal’s Divers-Cite festival was subsequently told, five days before they opened, that their expected grant wasn’t coming. But the show will go on in Ottawa.
I live in what is sometimes called the gaybourhood, the area of Somerset and Bank. There is a split over whether to make this designation official — akin to Little Italy or Chinatown. Others oppose what they see as a commercialization of queer culture.
I must confess personal indifference as to whether or not our gay village is marked with an official plaque but I understand the commercialization caveats. So much of the mainstream measure of the gay community seems to be based on economic terms, on how much tourist money Capital Pride pours into local coffers, or on businesses respecting gay customers for their spending power alone.
Urban theorist Richard Florida made his name in part with the so-called “gay index,” with which he noted the correlation between a city’s gay-friendliness and its ability to attract top talent for high-tech and other knowledge-based industries.
Not, as they say, that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s more to the gay community than double-income-no-kids.
Maybe a little more celebration of my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered neighbours as my neighbours, independent of their disposable income (or lack thereof) is in order.
To that end, let’s party!