Sunday, June 12, 2005

Montreal Reflection

When I was six, my father took a business trip to Canada. He was gone only a few days, but knowing he was away bothered me, even at that young age. It also thrilled me thinking he was in a foreign country, a place far, far away. When he returned, I remember him showing me Canadian coins, one with an elk or caribou and one with a loon. Holding them made Canada real, and brought home to me that there was something more out there, another world waiting for me when I grew up and could travel on my own.

Canada has held a fascination for me ever since. For a while it was the rugged beauty of its mountain regions, then the allure of its largest city, Toronto, described for years as a “clean New York.” I visited Toronto 15 years ago and it exceeded my expectations, energetic, modern, and yes, clean, it had welcoming warmth even though it was mid-December and snowing.

But it wasn’t until last year that Canada took on a significance I never thought possible. For my entire life I bought the line that the United States was the home of the free. Prior to coming out and self-identifying as gay, I was able to delude myself that, that was, in fact, the case. But I know what other minorities have known for years, if not decades, that in the US you are only free is you are mainstream—white and Christian. Two years ago, Canada started allowing gay marriage. No matter how you react to the idea of two men or two women loving each other, you cannot deny that gays and lesbians are not free to marry and are not given equality in the US. When Bush talks about spreading freedom in the world, I laugh. He barely knows what real freedom is. He needs to spend more time spreading freedom in our own country.

So when I came to Canada this time, I didn’t really think much about how I’d feel being here, in a country that truly treats me and my people as free and equal. But after being here, I can tell you the feeling is powerful and refreshing.

As grateful as I am to Canada for recognizing that GLBT people have the right to freedom and equality, I am just as disappointed with the US for its bigoted, backwards adherence to prejudice and discrimination. I never thought I’d have to visit another country do fee true freedom.