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a letter to the editior – International Day Against Homophobia

I thought I understood - Monica Lacey - mixed media on masonite

* this was an article submitted to the Guardian, P.E.I.’s Island wide news paper – unfortunately it was not published  – so we publish it here…

written By Josie Baker

Editor:

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia. Seven months ago, on October 18th, 2010, PEI was home to a hate crime so heinous that …it graced the headlines of television, radio, and print media across the country. Following a series of incidents including a threatening letter, home invasion, and vandalism, a gay couple’s home in Little Pond was firebombed while they were sleeping.

Islanders imagined that this would be an easy case to crack given the small community and the previously reported incidents. Seven months later there have been no charges laid and we need to ask why. Since the police did not take the previous incidents seriously, and the fire was investigated as arson rather than as an attempted murder, we are left to wonder whether this is a result of homophobia within the police force.

If the police can fail to properly investigate an attempted murder that received national media attention, what other hate crimes have escaped justice in this province because of police prejudice? The thought is chilling.

The fact is that many LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) people in PEI have experienced harassment, vandalism, and/or violence – psychological and physical punishment for failing to follow society’s unwritten rules of who to love and how to be a man/woman. These experiences leave scars. Understandably, people are afraid of being further victimized if they speak out.

Unfortunately homophobia is not as easy to recognize as overt incidents of hate-speech, violence, mockery, and degradation. It takes much more subtle forms, and come from unexpected places. It includes being complacent and allowing active homophobia to go unchallenged. It includes denying or justifying homophobic behavior in others. Even LGBT people exhibit homophobia: a survival strategy developed from living with fear.

Homophobia is everyone’s business. In response to October’s hate crime there were several initiatives organized by both strait and LGBT people to show support and solidarity. Unfortunately the subsequent events, including the benefit, facebook campaign, meeting, and rally were repeatedly misrepresented by the media as by and for the “gay community.”

It is not only the responsibility of LGBT people to raise questions about homophobia. It is in everyone’s interest to make PEI free from violence and intimidation. We need to speak out against homophobia in schools, institutions, the workplace, and yes, the police force.

Josie Baker
Make PEI Safe for Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgendered People

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