Patti Dawn Swansson: Gay men still face stigma here

The blues jam on Sunday afternoon at the Strath was running at a full-throated gallop when my friend Brian, glancing at the group gyrations on a crowded dance floor, leaned toward me.
“I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to get out there,” he confessed.

The blues jam on Sunday afternoon at the Strath was running at a full-throated gallop when my friend Brian, glancing at the group gyrations on a crowded dance floor, leaned toward me.

“I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to get out there,” he confessed.

“Why not?” I asked, straining to be heard amid the din. “You got up and danced at Bart’s a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah, but …”

The “but” in this case was that Brian is a gay man. A married gay man. And, half a dozen years after same-sex marriage became legal across Canada, there remains a strong hesitancy for gay men, pledged or otherwise, to grab a male partner and trip the light fantastic in what is considered a “straight” venue.

I bring this to your attention today because we have arrived at the tail end of Victoria Pride Week, a 10-day, born-this-way jubilee during which the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community celebrates truth of self and, at the same time, ponders its advances. Many in the LGBT community will ask this question: how far have we come in society?

I prefer to ask the question in reverse. That is: how far has society come?

It’s a difficult poser to answer.

I mean, we have same-sex marriage. Terrific. And scarcely a day goes by when I don’t see two women walking hand-in-hand on the streets of Victoria. I see women dancing together. Snuggling together. Kissing. It’s almost as if being lesbian is as hip today as long hair and beads were on men in the 1960s. Again, that’s terrific.

But what of gay men, like my friend Brian? I know of at least one gay bashing last year, an ugly, unreported incident that resulted in thousands of dollars in dental work and invisible emotional scarring. Only once since moving here 11 years ago have I seen two men holding hands in public. That was in Bastion Square and they were tourists from Europe. The sight of two men showing affection toward one another under the judgmental eye of society is as rare as a virgin in the Playboy Mansion.

Should men desire to get cozy here, they must go to Paparazzi Nightclub, which is the flagship of the LGBT community and a safe haven for those who wish to openly express their true self.

That’s not to say the town is devoid of gay-friendly venues in the so-called straight society. Bartholomew’s is a prime example of a spot where patrons are treated fairly and squarely by staff and other customers regardless of their sexual orientation.

If, however, gays/lesbians truly want to let it all hang out (figuratively, not literally), they go to Paparazzi or the Ledge, which is where the girls generally gather. But those venues are out of sight. Paparazzi is 18 steps below street level, in the basement of the Carlton Plaza, and the Ledge is on the second level of the Bedford.

Has society not arrived at the point where gays congregate in comfort at a street level bar? With a patio?

And I wonder what society will tell its children on Sunday when the Pride Parade meanders through the streets of downtown Victoria. When the kids see adult men in gowns, feathers and makeup, and women kissing and cuddling, what answer do they get when they ask, “Why is that man wearing a dress?” Does society tell them the truth and say, “Some men like men, some women like women, some like both, some people were born male but are now female.” Or does society say, “The circus is in town, kids. Smile and wave to the bearded lady?”

That’s why I can’t say how far society has come.

I do, however, know this: Until the day when my friend Brian and his partner can dance during a blues jam without fear of scorn, ridicule and possibly being punched out in the men’s washroom, it hasn’t come far enough.

Patti Dawn Swansson is a former News reporter.

editor@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read