written by Brad Deighan.
On Saturday, November 20 we held a Hug & Kiss In event in front of the Charlottetown Province House in order raise awareness of the rights and treatments of GBLTQ people, and the harmful effects of homophobia. We wanted to show solidarity between people of differing sexual orientations with and event organized by both heterosexuals and members of the gay community together. Homophobia is not simply a gay issue, but also a heterosexual one – if we’re going to identify as ‘straight’, then we got to get our shit straight as well.
Our goal has also been to acknowledge and condemn the incident in Little Pond, PE which we are describing as a hate crime. Two married men were targeted for being gay and threatened with their lives in a firebombing attack that burnt down their home. This is understood to have been based in religious belief. We stand against such forms of intolerance, and show our support for the couple – we do support you and we are not the only ones.
This is because neither the hug & kiss in, nor the firebombing attack, should be considered as isolated events. Instead, they are linked to many other struggles taking place in local in communities right now around the world, while digital communications and the internet give us more access into them than ever before. While issues may arise locally, they are becoming increasingly more connected to a larger, ongoing set of international events as well, and there are people all over the world who are no longer content to allow the fear and violence of homophobia to continue to to disrupt their lives.
In fact, our own act of solidarity with GLBTQ people was inspired by the gay kiss in which surrounded Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Spain in November, contesting the church’s stance stance on homosexuality. Because the attack in Little Pond was itself based in religious belief, the connection in this case to the Vatican is made quite clear – that this attitude of intolerance does not exist randomly at the individual level, but as part a larger and more systemic apparatus which is used to maintain control over people’s sexuality. If we want to change our attitudes, we also need the help of our public institutions! And this includes our institutions of art, as well as the church, those of law, politics, education and more.
I kiss, you kiss, we all hug and/or kiss people. Our tactic involved the creation of a spectacle of performers upon the public eye, and the maintenance of a facilitated self-entertainment with an open invitation to all. We tried to blend elements of public theater, performance and audience involvement, with political activism and critical social justice. This helped to make it fun and attractive as well as socially relevant, and successful in gaining access to a number of news-media outlets in order to reach out to a larger audience beyond the bounds of the actual event itself.
While instances of homophobia may occur locally and on a seemingly individual basis, it is in fact connected to a set of larger international problems and is systemic in nature. It exists as a heterosexual issue as well as a gay one, and demands the help of all of our institutions. How can our arts communities then, here in PE, have an impact on issues surrounding the rights and treatment of GLBTQ people? Where are the boundaries and intersections of art, activism and social criticism, and what may they have to offer one another – as well as us in the process? With this, I would like to extend an invitation to Island artists to explore these questions and help make our communities safe for GLBTQ people.
This town in too small for homophobic fear and/or violence.