Activist in the trenches, fighting to be heard
Kats got your tongue
One of the most frustrating things about doing an undergraduate degree in university is the abundance of class time spent on theoretical musings and the lack of time spent discussing issues more closely related to reality.
One of the more interesting debates going on in Parliament this year concerns gay/lesbian rights and the definition of marriage. While Ottawa is deciding whether or not to change the law regulating who is allowed to be legally joined in marriage, in my "comparative protest and social movements" class I wanted to talk about the activism that brought this debate to the surface. Unfortunately though, we are still wading in the quagmire of theorists fighting with theorists about the bazillion different ways of conceptualizing protest and activism.
Into this mix walks Bruce Flowers, a small man with the aura of one who has been fighting a long war. He lets himself into The Gazette office, takes a mountain of papers out of his bag, spreads them out on our table and attempts to solicit an editor to print news about his art exhibit - which is currently on campus - and about his long-standing fight for gay/lesbian rights.
He is a real social activist, one actually in the trenches fighting to bring his cause to light. My interest is piqued and I listen to his spiel. It is an elaborate and obviously well-practiced one. He says his art has been on display on campus for more than a month and although he has approached every media outlet on campus, he has gotten no press.
Every point he makes is backed up by evidence; he has pages and pages of it, all taken from reliable sources. When he says gay and bisexual men are 13.9 per cent more likely to do serious harm to themselves than heterosexual men and that 30 per cent of the completed youth suicides in the United States are committed by lesbian and gay youth annually, he points out these statistics were cited in reputable journals and newspapers.
He also refers to an article in Time magazine that reports on the Vatican's statement that "gay love is not even remotely analogous to heterosexual love." How, Flowers asks, would young gay/lesbian people feel upon hearing this?
His art has a purpose: it seeks to provide positive imagery of same sex lifestyles in order to reduce the isolation gay/lesbian youth feel.
Flowers' art depicts scenes of intimacy between same sex couples, as well as same sex couples as parents. Yet, when his work was displayed in Woodstock, ON, the local newspaper focused attention on the protest resulting from his depiction of same sex relationships.
He asks why - as an activist for civil rights - he cannot get media attention in a university . He seeks to use his art to provide validation for gay and lesbian people. Yet, when newspapers write about him they choose to characterize statues of two men in an embrace as "erotic," or they focus on the public outcry against him.
He is fighting an uphill battle to draw attention to what his art expresses about gay rights.
The issue is a current and real one, being debated in Parliament right now. Flowers' long, lonely struggle strikes me as a peek into how protest and social movements look in reality.