Queer Rights Set Bar Higher – even in Baseball

by John Wilson
The recent furor over the Toronto Blue Jays baseball player Yunel Escobar’s anti-gay slur has subsided, but it demonstrates a number of things. (Escobar played through a game with the words “Tu Ere(sic) Maricon –“you’re a faggot” — outlined in his undereye shadowing. This was caught on camera by a fan and went viral.) Blue Jays honchos responded with a three day suspension and an obviously insincere apology by Escobar. The fact that a penalty was imposed at all tends to show that there is increased sensitivity even in the corporate media to homophobia. There were fewer than the expected phony excuses offered for Escobar’s conduct, and plenty of outrage at the slap-on-the-wrist penalty. (His financial penalty was less than $100,000 out of a multi-million dollar salary!)
The increased awareness of homophobia in Ontario has several sources. At its heart is the determined struggle by queer rights activists and their allies that resulted recently in victory on two major issues. The passage of “Toby’s Law” mandates inclusion in the Ontario Human Rights Act of gender identity and gender expression. The Accepting Schools Act addresses the issue of anti-gay bullying, specifying that students in Catholic schools have the right to form Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and to name them whatever they wish. (see Socialist Action, August 2011) Both these victories, and the more recent one of Quebec students on the tuition hikes issue, show that when you fight uncompromisingly for what you want you can win. That’s not guaranteed of course. What is guaranteed is that if you don’t fight, you lose.
Another victory is that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) marched in the 2012 Toronto Pride parade with a sizeable contingent. But the fight for free speech at Pride will continue. Pro-zionists at city hall recently pushed through a motion via the (mayor’s) executive committee instructing city staff to amend the city’s anti-discrimination policy to prohibit the phrase “Israeli apartheid”, ignoring advice that such a manoevre would not survive a legal challenge.
On the gay marriage front, the latest figures from Statistics Canada show the number of same-sex marriages rose 181% between 2006 and 2011, although overall not a large number. Of course these numbers are voluntarily provided and many folks do not trust any government agency to maintain their privacy, so the data should be taken with a large grain of salt. Commentators from the queer community made the point that large numbers of long term couples have not gone the marriage route. Nonetheless, it does demonstrate that there’s a demand. This is somewhat ironic considering that the institution of marriage is declining rapidly in most imperialist countries.