Letter to the editor 3, June 16, 2016

Orlando

Dear Editor,

As I stood at the pulpit at St. James’ Anglican Church last night, bereaved with a gut-wrenching sadness over the Orlando shooting that occurred this past Sunday, I was exceptionally grateful for those who chose to attend the vigil that was hurriedly decided upon and put together.

Feeling the need to do something both James Armstrong and myself – consoling each other first over the phone, decided that we could possibly open the church doors and ask members of our community to be present in solidarity.

We phoned the powers that be, unlocked the church, planned a hastened rite of passage, and welcomed those who showed up. We scurried to post a notice of the vigil on Facebook and took to sending e-mails to muster up what support we could, asking people to join us in solidarity.

There were dozens of ‘likes’ showing up via social media. And I received many an e-mail from friends offering to light a candle at home, or wherever they were, some too far and too tired to make the trip. Fourteen people showed up to the vigil, and noted that half of these people were not from the congregation.

Undoubtedly the time frame was a factor, as well as the do-good feeling we get by offering our voice to social media, thinking at times that these reactions (as they are called by FB – so and so ‘reacted’ to your post) are enough to posture change in our society. It is not enough.

Years ago, when I wrote a regular column in the local newspaper, I talked about the idea of initiating a Pride Day in this area. I received no response. None. Yes, it is true that many likely didn’t read the article. And many might think it would not be possible. For you know, we live in a small town. There are numerous ‘gay’ people of all stripes that live in this catch area – from Pointe-Fortune to Dorion. And there are no support initiatives or systems in place that I know of.

But truly, please correct me if I am wrong. I would love to be wrong. Are our issues taken for granted because we live in a small town? Or is there a deeper, systemic darkness? As of last night, this is going to change. We have begun to talk about the possibilities. The Anglican Church is facing a major vote at its upcoming General Synod. Despite the political acceptance of gay marriage in this country, the Anglicans have yet to accept to change their marriage Canon.

I suspect that after this type of fallout there should be much to consider and reconsider. Dissonance and civil disobedience is beginning to murmur in the halls, clergy considering marrying LGBT couples regardless. Or maybe they will decide to not marry anyone at all. Now wouldn’t that be counter-cultural? But then again, Jesus was counter-cultural too. And despite popular belief, Jesus never spoke of, or against, or about, homosexuality. Never. His mandate was simple: Love thy neighbour. Does this get talked about, in our little town?

We had the ‘I am Charlie’ movement. Will we see ‘I am Orlando?’ Will we see 'I am Orlando and live in Hudson, or Vaudreuil, or St. Lazare? Will we see queers and supporters alike line the sidewalks of Main Street Hudson dawning pink triangles, feather boas, and enjoying a feast of nostalgic disco music? Will we see our church leaders meet in solidarity in this community to take a stand of love and unity toward this oppression? Will we see people actually reaching forward and asking empathetically ‘what is your life truly like, here in this small hamlet?’ Where you have no community, no support, no dances, no clubs, no membership of acceptance and belonging to call your own?

Will we see some movement beyond tolerance and yes, acceptance, at some levels, to trying to come to grips with understanding what the gay population and community around here really needs? I do wonder if you picked up the phone yesterday to see how your gay friend or relative was doing.

Right now we need support. We need it understood that we are grieving, deeply, sadly, and sorrowfully. We need to be able to speak out and express this grief. We need to make some sense of this darkness. It is not only about the loss of people, our brothers and sisters. It is about the cruel and senseless epidemic that is trying to destroy the fabric of all that lives – on so many levels: the religious groups, the Indigenous, the queer communities, racial profiling, and our beautiful planet, our waters, our environment, and on and on it goes.

I call it apathy. And being a Doctoral student of Ministry, it is the central topic of my thesis. Reacting on Facebook is not enough. Talk is not enough. Solidarity comes in many shapes and forms. It heaves the boundaries of political, religious, cultural and social dissent.

I urge you to begin reflecting on your own response to these crises. I ask that you look into the depth of your marrow and question what is it you can do to take one simple step toward change – within, and without.

Even in our little town. I don’t have answers. I am grieving. It is difficult to know what to do in times of such helplessness. It warrants deep lessons in humility. In closing, I share with you a poem that I wrote several years back, and read at the end of the vigil. The poem was written to mark the celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Trans phobia.

Thank you for listening,

Peace for your journey,

Vivianne LaRiviere

St. Lazare

“Sometimes, as I have Marched through History” © Vivianne LaRiviere

Sometimes, as I have marched through history, I wished I were a boy; other times I wished I had been a man.

And sometimes as I have marched through the birthing of history, I wished I were a girl-other times I dreamed of being a woman.

Sometimes we feel the need to identify ourselves with labels;

To insure we have some understanding of who we are,

Though, of often times, A trivial gesture and often remaining misunderstood.

I sense that many of you call me lesbian,

A word often used to determine ‘women loving women,’

Though I admit, I abandoned the word years ago… I do not call myself lesbian.

There is many a different bloom

In the psychological garden of gender –

And as we swirl through boundaries and borders and implications and Definitions to placate our fears,

We transfer, we transpose, we transcend – for some, we transgender.

I have marched for thousands and thousands of years,

Your fears but migrating dust in a minutia speck of time.

Through the gardens of Babylon, I have sung songs for freedom.

My mind spins in conversation with Socrates,

As we span the taste of wine,

Over some ‘light’ conversation.

In times of Greek – to marry who – did not matter

Only, age, and family blood were the issues chattered.

On the rocks, the rocks of thousands of years,

Are the drawings of my African people,

The people, the men who loved men, and the women and their tears.

The Bantu, Zimbabwe, and Shona

To name a few, charged with misdemeanors when the colonial courts arrived.

And now let’s march closer and look at more indigenous ways

That of the Native American tribes

The ‘two-spirited’ among the Zuni, the Hopi

And many other native lives

Attest to the gifts of “between genders,”

Keepers of the stories of creation, healing and growth.

I will continue to march as two-spirited.

I am Ojibwa two-spirited, I am Algonquin two-spirited, in the past, I have married a ‘Sioux Jew’ two-spirited.

I have marched along the banks of the river,

Holding hands with Jesus

And what cherished company were the friends of Siddhartha?

Oval table, round table I have sat at them all…

For breakfast, dinner and midnight snack.

At the foot of the queen – what??? I was the queen!

I have danced in luminous gowns

Though some of us have preferred overalls, Pinstripe suits, and shiny boots

To dine and dance away till dawn.

And as I continue to march for liberation

Through the wars of history I march with Hitler himself

My nakedness in winter

Tortured with the chills of water

Standing frozen and dying

My memory haunting your frozen mind

He has dressed me, colour coded me

Abashing me with shame and degradation

In hopes to banish the queer

I marched to my death thousands of times

In pride and suffering

Marked by the memory

Of the triangle I wore

For, if I was but a common criminal, I was sewn with a green triangle,

If I chose a life of political dissidence I was armed with a red triangle

My Jehovah witness religion

Marked me with purple.

Blue if I was an ‘emigrants,’

My gypsy blood marked with brown triangles,

And a black triangle for my lesbian family and other “anti-socials” who

Constantly caused disruption.

Colour me yellow, if I was a Jew

And colour male femaleness with the now infamous pink triangle.

Aaaaahhhh so straight, you think you were so free,

Caught hugging your friend and charges of lewdness

Got you six months.

But why, of why are these bright pink and black triangles

Shown upside down?

The triangle is a symbol of truth,

A geometric symbolism connecting heaven and earth.

The Greek sacred alphabet triangles represent

The vulva of the “mother delta”

Nazi-contempt for truth

Nazi-contempt for Jews

Nazi-contempt for all that is woman

Turn me down, denigrate.

Aaaahhh…and then there was stonewall.

We waved to each other as we marched along Christopher Street

Don’t you remember?

June 27th, 1969, to be exact

Historically, our first pride parade

Don’t you remember?

We marched, we rioted

We yellowed and exclaimed

And took back our power

Sad and true

There were men & women

Paddy-wagoned

And forced to endure

The unbadged platoon

“Let me prove to you what a good man can do”

We revolted, we grew

Now we march in millions

All around the globe

The power of pride!

There are those who are their fears.

Their fears but migrating dust in a minutia speck of time.

In 1978 I marched with my first rainbow flag

A Gift from Gilbert Baker

A flag of six stripes, six colours….colours of the rainbow

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered worldwide community pride.

Did you know that this beautiful flag is now recognized by the International Congress of Flag makers?

I have marched through time and now in this contemporary world,

In Pride fashion, on Pride day.

For I am your daughter, your son, your mother, your father,

Your sister, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a musician, a minister, a lover and friend.

I am rich and poor and homeless and a CEO…and maybe one day I will be prime minister!

I am a carrier of the rainbow, I will not go away.

And as I continue to march

Cradling for you, your fantasies and your thoughts,

I shall continue to march for you,

Until there is no longer a divide between you and I,

Until we no longer fear our own imagination.

Until we feel liberated enough

To not question or shame ourselves.

Until you no longer deny

That we have kissed,

We have embraced,

If only in your dreams!

Amen!

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