Alex Bishop

We must work together to make this city inclusive and safe for all of us

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I have been asked several times to say something about the current climate in Hamilton. I’ve written several drafts outlining my position and my personal feelings and connection to the discrimination and oppression of our own LGBTQ+ community. I ended up saying nothing because my words felt hollow as I struggled to express what I felt was important.

What was happening seemed intrinsically tied to identity. To me, the distinction between being an ally or being a member of the community felt gigantic. I felt it necessary to nail down exactly what my sexual orientation was and to justify it — to some degree. I wanted, desperately, to be able to support this community which included members who meant so much to me by having the bravery to declare exactly who I was with the right labels. This created a tension and anxiety in me.

I think I’m midway through that journey. It began with being called a f — t in front of my children by someone who meant to slander me. Somehow through their hate it gave me, a man who is attracted to and dates women, permission to define my own sexuality through my own lens. I didn’t need the permission of others to be exactly who I am. I want to also acknowledge that it is a privilege that I am able to, for the most part, privately work on defining my own identity without fear or persecution or violence. I felt like I did not want to state a position until I could be clear both to myself and the LGBTQ+ community whether I was a member or just another cis heterosexual ally using my privilege. I do not have resolution on this point but I feel I must say something.

Above all, I am a Hamiltonian. I am listening — intensely — to other Hamiltonians when they say they feel unsafe. This is our city — all of ours. Let’s wear that label first. This steel town has survived against immense odds. A recession which crippled other municipalities, for a city as strong as ours, it was just the soil for the rebirth of this town. I love this city and I love the people who live here.

As Hamiltonians we have a responsibility to protect those in this city who cannot protect themselves. I cannot suggest a concrete plan forward for our city. What I am suggesting is that first, all of us, remind ourselves that in Hamilton, we all have a lot of more in common than different. Second, that we begin listening to the groups in our city that feel poorly treated, under-represented and unsafe. Then together we can build a city in which these groups do feel included. Third, every single one of us needs to make it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate hate and bigotry in our city. We will not turn a blind eye and leave the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable. We will not let racism or bigotry exist in our city.

We are Hamiltonians and we share this amazing city. We need to work together to make this city inclusive, welcoming and safe. This should not be the sole responsibility of groups that are targeted. We need to stand up for each other — even when we personally are not impacted by another’s hatred or bigotry.

I am proud to say I’m a Hamiltonian but, as I am hearing from those around me, that means that I have work to do.

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