Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Fire That Won't Go Out

[Blogmaster's Warning: Sarcasm and exasperation often don't show up in the written word, yet this piece is dripping with both of them. Please don't bombard me with messages about how self-loathing I am; I know that already. For the record, just because I'm self-loathing doesn't mean the cause of it is internalized homophobia.]

I had to read the accompanying article a couple of times, because it contained so many incongruities. It seems a gay firefighter in a rural part of BC is suing the local fire department for anti-gay bias.

First of all, yeah. You live in the country, and work with men whose machismo means more to them than their soul. They put up nudie pictures and tell fag jokes. Yeah?

This has just sealed the deal. I'm announcing the release of my hip-hop album right now, even before it's written or recorded. Why not? Why not wade right in where you know from the start that you're not wanted, put yourself in harm's way, then complain about it?

That it happens doesn't make it okay, but you don't have any right to be shocked about it when it does, especially when you had to know from day one that it would. I worked one day as a photographer's assistant on a firefighter's calendar, and I could have told him this would happen.

What, was the police department not hiring? Good luck Mr. Mackenzie in changing the entire world all by yourself. I tried that once and it got old fast.

BC has no Human Rights Commission, but it did prior to 2002; when Gordon Campbell's Liberals were elected it was one of the first things they abolished. Currently we have a Human Rights Tribunal. In the old days, when reporting systemic bigotry such as this, investigators would interview past and present employees in an attempt to get to the source of the problem. Under the current system, the two parties get an hour or two face time with an adjudicator, and if the complainant doesn't agree to the adjudicator's findings he can be charged with the cost of the entire proceeding, usually upwards of $80,000.

I also work in a homophobic industry. I listen to fag jokes all day long. I don't say anything because if I'm ever in a dangerous situation I want to know that my backup is coming, not hanging back and laughing at the about-to-be-dead fag. And I certainly don't go to some hollow government agency where no one gives a shit about me.

Of course, that's just me. I've always been something of a libertarian where government is concerned.

The smartest thing David Mackenzie did here was going to the press. It'll get better results faster, and be more likely to bring about actual change. Going to the Human Rights Tribunal is strictly a formality to underline the seriousness of the complaint, and to make the press take it more seriously.

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Seumas Gagne said...

This fellow might be the Rosa Parks of gay first responders. I agree that many governmental human rights watchdog mechanisms are toothless, but as you wisely state, they do lend legitimacy to the real fight, which is in the public imagination via the news media.

michael sean morris said...

I almost removed this post, since in my exasperation (not to mention sarcasm) I think it comes across as a bit harsh. Anyone fighting the good fight deserves my unconditional support.