This is Why I Fight

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Written by Madeleine Cosentino

On October 12, 1998 Matthew Shepard died in hospital. Five days earlier he had been attacked by two men, who robbed him, beat him and tied him to a fence post, leaving him to die. He was found 18 hours later in a coma, with so much blood on his face the only clear spots were where his tears had run down his cheeks.

Matthew's killers were not charged with a hate crime because no such law existed in America. After 11 years such a law still does not exist.

Same-sex marriage is legal in only seven countries; the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and of course Canada. It is recognized in only six US States; Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine (pending November 2009) and New Hampshire (effective January 2010).

LGBT teens are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens.

In countries like Iraq, LGBT individuals are still treated as sub-humans. In 2009, human rights groups reported that some gay Iraqi men had their anuses glued shut and were then fed laxatives, causing their colons to explode and killing them. Gay Iraqis were also beaten, tortured with electric prods, raped and murdered.

If you are openly gay you cannot serve in the United States military, thanks to “Don't Ask Don't Tell.” The only other major military forces with the same policy are Russia, China and Greece.

A large part of the world still considers homosexuality illegal or immoral.

Religious wingnuts such as the Westboro Baptists claim that God hates gay people, homosexuality is unnatural and a sin, and that AIDS was sent by God to kill homosexuals. They go so far as to protest funerals of soldiers, believing their deaths are punishments from God. They even protested Matthew Shepard's funeral with signs saying "Matthew Shepard burns in hell" and tried to protest Heath Ledger's funeral because he played a gay man in the movie Brokeback Mountain.

An estimated 33.2 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. The disease affects men, women, gays, straights, bisexuals, transgendered individuals, transsexuals, adults and children.

According to surveys, 97 per cent of students in U.S. public high schools report hearing regular homophobic comments such as "that's so gay".

Men who have sexual contact with other men are not allowed to donate blood in Canada and the U.S., despite advances in HIV testing.

At my high school prom, I did not see one same sex couple.

No male professional athlete in a team sport has ever come out as gay or bisexual.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not give Brokeback Mountain the Oscar for Best Picture, despite being one of the most honored films in cinematic history.

The popular belief is that 10 per cent of the world's population is LGBT. That means 10 per cent of the world is directly affected by homophobia. This statistic does not include straight allies.

It is for these reasons and more that I fight as a LGBT activist. I believe all people are created equal, and entitled to the same rights, freedoms and protections.

This is why I fight.

Are you with me?

Queer Identities Week runs from Monday, October 17 to Sunday, October 25

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question

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  1. Posted by: ack1 on Oct 19, 2009 @ 6:22pm

    I'm hip to most of what you're layin down, but on this point
    PT 1: "Men who have sexual contact with other men are not allowed to donate blood in Canada and the U.S., despite advances in HIV testing."
    I don't know much about gay men, or about blood donation, but to me this seems less about exclusion and homophobia, than it does about calculated risk, and the recipient's personal health.

  2. Posted by: ack1 on Oct 19, 2009 @ 6:22pm

    I imagine I'll offend someone with this but consider it an open invitation to enlighten me.
    "Men who have sexual contact with other men are not allowed to donate blood in Canada and the U.S., despite advances in HIV testing."
    Now I don't know a whole lot about gay men, or about blood donation, but my current understanding is that this isn't so much about homophobia and exclusion, as it is about calculated risk, and people's physical health.

  3. Posted by: ack1 on Oct 19, 2009 @ 6:25pm

    So I think a couple things. One, I come from a scientific background and I put a certain trust in the medical establishment to have solid rationales behind their policies (though I imagine this bit is rife with potential fallacy).

  4. Posted by: ack1 on Oct 19, 2009 @ 6:27pm

    And two, that the blood-donation-exclusion point seems out of place in a piece about people being ' entitled to the same rights, freedoms and protections', since the issue seems like it is more about protecting the rights and freedoms of the blood donation recipient than it is about the donor.
    I could be way off and embody popular, uninformed opinion, in which case please inform me!

  5. Posted by: jsmith04 on Oct 20, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    Just out of curiosity, I would be interested to know if you would change your response with a comparison of how 2 men are affected. One man had promiscuous sex, without protection, with multiple women of unknown hiv status. The other is a gay man who is happily married, has not cheated on his husband and tests negative for hiv. The straight man must wait 1 year (after having random sex) before he can donate blood while the gay man can never, for the rest of his life, make the same donation.

  6. Posted by: on Nov 5, 2009 @ 3:29am


    It's a tricky issue, as yes, blood donation is based on risk analysis. However, surely in 2009 we have technology that is capable of testing for HIV status much better than making assumptions based on someone's sexual orientation? I would hope that every individual is tested, rather than make gross generalizations about a group of people.
    It is true that gay men are a higher risk group for HIV, but only because anal sex is at a higher risk. Straight men can also engage in anal sex with women. And as jsmith04 pointed out, heterosexuals can engage in risky activities to the same or greater degree than that of gay men.
    But your point seems to be more as to whether or not this exlusion is homophobia. It's probably true that those who run blood donor clinics are anti-gay, but supporting the stigma that AIDS is a gay disease is homophobia. AIDS affects all people, and as such every individual should be tested, or provide proof of testing.

  7. Posted by: D.L Newton on Nov 6, 2009 @ 8:23pm

    Whether or not person can donate blood should be based upon whether or not the blood is usable which can only be determined by testing. Any other way of discerning between the viability of a donation will be based on irrational bias, in this case homophobia. It is the duty of the medical industry to be dispelling myths, not to be perpetuating them.

  8. Posted by: christine de pizan on Nov 27, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    madeleine - great piece.
    newtown - yes, absolutely.
    ack1 - you should do more research.

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