I miss you.
I have suspected Pride Hamilton 2019 will be marked as a turning point for the 2SLGBTQIA community in Hamilton. It sounds from the reports last night that my suspicions have started to bear fruit…
We fought in the 1970’s for decriminalization and depathologization (ICD 302.0) of our identity, we fought back in the 1980’s after the bathhouse raids, we fought for medical care during the AIDS crisis in the 1990’s, we fought for protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we fought to get married.
Now we’re fighting for our safety and right to exist in the city we call home.
The fact that individual members of the 2SLGBTQIA community made it to adulthood and beyond proves that individually, we’re warriors.
Hamilton’s Mayor and police, through their inaction and targeting of our communities, have turned a motley, disheveled group of warriors into an army.
Dear Mayor, Councillor and City Clerk,
I awoke this morning to the sound of closet doors slamming shut throughout Hamilton.
I watched, with great anger and horror, last night’s council meeting on the live stream and followed the various twitter feeds of media and attendees.
I am ashamed to call myself a citizen of Hamilton.
I am ashamed that I have given the past 20 years of my life advocating for this city as a musician and as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
I’ve given 20 years of my life to this city, organizing, starting LGBTQ friendly events and groups, advocating for transit and accessibility – and last night was the best display that Hamilton City Council can do to show the city is “The Best Place to Raise a Child.”
Apparently not children who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ or the children of parents who do.
In 2007, my husband got the news that he had cancer and would need a transplant or else die. We received this news and went out for a walk, ending up on Locke St. (we live in the Stipley neighbourhood by the stadium). He broke down in front of a church and I put my arm around him as he wept.
I woke up bleeding with broken ribs in St. Joe’s ER, with the instructions from officers telling me to “act less gay and maybe you won’t get beaten.” No charges were laid despite there being multiple eyewitnesses to the beatings Larry and I received.
This was the second beating we received. The first was on Hess St where we made the mistake of holding hands in public.
Our house was vandalized multiple times when we first moved in.
Each time we reported these incidents the police did nothing, beyond nod and say there was little that they could do. They didn’t even crack their notebooks and take names/details.
This aspect isn’t limited to Hamilton – members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community always must be vigilant about public displays of affection (holding hands, touching, walking close) which is why we guard Pride festivals and our safe spaces so ferociously.
With each of these events and the relative inaction of Hamilton Police Services, I’ve had to modify my expectations about policing. Make no bones about it – as a cisgender middle age caucasian male, I have it FAR easier than my BIPoC, Trans and female identifying friends.
My last glimmer for Hamilton being a welcoming city for BIPoC and 2SLGBTQIA+ people disappeared when police stood by while a 15 year old girl got her face smashed in by a man wielding a military helmet. An assault shown on video, an assault witnessed by many, including Hamilton Police Services – who were at Hamilton Pride on June 15, 2019.
After June 15, I can say that I no longer feel safe or welcome in my city for the first time in a long while.
This is why I am being harsh on the “powers that be”
This is why I take issue with police forces being allowed, in uniform, in our safe spaces and events. There is a VAST divide between the two sides and communication has been decidedly one way…there have been a lot of demands broadcasted to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community community but precious little listening, hearing, consideration, concession or compromise from the police.
Hamilton only has a Pride festival because the 2SLGBTQIA+ community took then mayor Bob Morrow to the Human Rights Tribunal and we fought and won our right to celebrate in the city.
In 2017, Pride Hamilton was forced to switch venues because the city “accidentally” issued a second permit to the Sons of Odin to stage a protest at the exact same time and location as Hamilton Pride. We felt unsafe with this as the timing of this protest was clearly aimed at putting us in our place.
In 2018, the Wolves of Odin were joined by professional Evangelical Protesters from Texas and Montana who disrupted Haldimand Pride and attempted to disrupt ours. Matthew Green Hamilton Centre led a counter protest which worked against them, however they vowed they’d be back.
In 2019, the protesters from Texas, Montana, “Nouns” of Odin were joined by the Yellow Vests and several “known individuals”. Who responded to the counter protests with weapons, sucker punches and garden sprayers filled with noxious unknown fluids.
Police asked in the 11th hour to place a recruitment tent in the festival, Pride organizers said “let’s talk” and then heard radio silence. This is far different than the “No Police at Pride” narrative being given.
That being said Pride started as a protest to heavy handed policing coming into our safe spaces, in New York City, in Toronto and in other cities. Society forced the 2SLGBTQIA+ community into a corner, behind closed doors and then decided that that wasn’t good enough.
Last night certain councilors and even you, Mr. Mayor seem to want that to happen again.
I am an employee of the Ontario Government, I am a musician who supports the community by performing at and producing events year round. I am an organizer who was a founding member of the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, I have helped advocate for accessible transit and worked with the YesLRT campaign, I have helped organize the Hamilton Pagan Harvest Festival for the past 5 years and Hamilton Pride for the past 3 years.
I was planning on retiring and opening a business and had started looking at potential properties that would allow me to do so. However after last night, I feel that if this city will no longer support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, it won’t support me as a citizen or a business person.
I’d like to thank Councilors Nann, Wilson, Danko and Clark for their words of support and actual allyship. I am proud to say Councilor Nann is my representative on City Council and thank her for attending Hamilton Pride. I thank her for her statement on CHCH and continued allyship.
I call out the councilors that sat in silence through the entire charade. In the 2SLGBTQIA+ community the statement “Silence equals death” is often used, while it is heavy rhetoric, I’ve buried friends who committed suicide due to stigmatizing language, buried friends who were beaten and murdered for being queer and buried friends who died during the AIDS crisis. Those who remain complacent show their tacit approval of the status quo. Period.
I express my utmost disappointment in Councilor Merulla and Mayor Eisenberger for continuing the rhetoric of victim blaming and the “two sides” fallacy.
I thought Hamilton could do better. I guess I was wrong.
I spent Friday night performing my music in the courtyard of a local store during the monthly Hamilton Art Crawl. The Art Crawl typically falls on the second Friday night of each month where the art galleries, shops and restaurants of James St. North in Hamilton stay open late in a celebration of art and community.
One of the stores has acted as a catalyst, connecting artists, artisans, craftspeople and other local businesses to the community. The Hamilton Store has been very supportive of my music career as well, providing opportunities for me to perform in a relaxed, calm environment.
During my time in the Hamilton Store’s courtyard, I have had the pleasure of meeting local artists and makers and have been inspired by their art. One such artist, Bernie Hudecki, has provided artwork for my CD table for one. and also another work that inspires me daily in my studio. The owner of the Hamilton Store provides a space where artists can display their work and talk about their artistic vision to a crowd of engaged art fans and shoppers.
This Friday, I was exposed to a digital artist whose work celebrated the City of Hamilton while also providing a unique filter to view the environs that surround us all. I was inspired by certain works and considered adding a print or two to my collection.
The courtyard housed the work of this artist on the walls that fenced in the area. The back portion of the courtyard, furthest from the rear of the store housed a local maker who was ebullient, creative, friendly and a joy to be around. I chose the back corner in which to perch on my tall stool with my guitar and music stand.
I arrived shortly after 6pm in order to be set up and ready by 7pm. My stool and table were in use by the artist, to hold various pieces of artwork and her purse. We were introduced and she brusquely acknowledged me and then went back to hanging her work.
Both the store owner and I indicated that the table and stool needed to be cleared in order for me to set up. I had asked again at 6:30 also ensuring her husband knew that I needed the items to set up. By 6:45, they both were still occupied, so I took it upon myself to clear and move the stool and moved a different table to my area.
Both the maker and I were up and running at 7pm while the artist and her husband were still setting up, hammering nails, dropping framed prints and yelling at each other over who was at fault. Meanwhile the crowd was beginning to filter in, having to make their way around the fallen art, the empty bags and bubble wrap and, yes the artist and her husband.
Once the art was set up, the artist retreated to the store, where she was seen to be rummaging through the store’s stock, having her husband take pictures of various items for sale and photographing pages of books “for future” work. Hmmm.
Once she and her husband had ransacked the store (the owner unobtrusively followed behind to tidy up things while dealing with customers), the photographer sat in a chair behind the counter and spent the evening looking glumly at the floor or in her purse. Her husband popped out a few times to photograph the artwork on the courtyard walls while the maker and I greeted guests and customers and sold our wares.
Many asked if the artist was here – we commented that yes she was and indicated who she was in the store. When they went to engage, she often greeted them with an uncomfortable stare and what looked like to be terse conversation. Most walked away after a very brief conversation.
When the evening was done, I had noted two works “spoke” to me and I went to find the artist to request a card. Stating that I was interested in two pieces, however they weren’t in my budget at the moment – a mid-scale digital print in an IKEA frame was priced at just under $300.
After rolling her eyes and groaning, she told me, “It would be nice if you had the money for them now, as I just have to take them home. It’s bad enough I only sold one piece tonight and the store offered to take one on commission, but call me when you have enough money to buy them.”
Wow. I can’t understand why she didn’t sell more art…the whole evening it was clear that she wanted to be anywhere but there. She was unavailable throughout most of the night and when people did go search her out, she was standoffish (at best) to down right rude (at worst) to potential customers.
Most artists understand that festival nights such as this don’t result in actual sales of product. What they do result in is a chance for a creator/maker to sell themselves as an artist. I sold 1 CD and a few downloads all night long, however gave out several business cards and discussed potential bookings. Since Friday, several downloads have been purchased.
The hardest thing for any artist to do is to sell themselves. The second hardest thing is to sell their work. The artist Friday night was clearly unwilling to do either and drove at least this potential customer away.
Perhaps next time, she should have someone available who is willing to be available, be open and willing to talk about her art for her. She might find the evening had gone differently for her.
For 2019 I decided to make some changes in how I handle relationships. My last post – the bluntly honest and realistic personal ad – was a hint of my growing attitude towards expending social, emotional and personal energy on others these days.
I’m honestly pretty tired these days trying to be sociable and available.
Recently I’ve noticed that a good number of my relationships have become decidedly one-sided as far as effort goes, particularly in maintaining contact. I expend a fair amount of my energy keeping in touch with friends and family and doing so is quite draining on my reserves. Some days I feel like just trying to be a good friend and acquaintance is an uphill battle and it’s leaving me drained.
I get that people have busy lives, but why should I expend effort in keeping in touch with people when it’s clear that I’m barely an afterthought in theirs? When it seems that my presence is treated as being a necessity or perhaps even a burden, why would I want to force that on a person?
I’m not going to cut these people out of my life, however why should I expend excessive energy keeping our contact open when it’s clearly not of value for them to reciprocate? Why should I feel obligated to maintain contact with people?
That being said, in a similar vein, the people who always say that we should get together but never accept an invitation, even if it’s just for a coffee or lunch or are “too busy but maybe next time.” Once that invitation is extended and refused, I’ll leave the ball in their court so that they can choose the “next time.”
The ball has been served. It’s up to them to smash it home.