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