Xtra!'s David K Seitz interviews Canadian clergyman Brent Hawkes, a man who has not onyl served for decades senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, but has become one of Canada's leading gay rights activists. (Same-sex marriage wouldn't have gotten off as early as it did without his help.)
You and MCCT played a central role in the struggle for same-sex marriage, but you've always been working on a range of issues and have stressed the importance of not becoming a "single-issue" church. What are the main post-marriage challenges for the LGBTQ community?
First, we have to ground the gains that we've made in education, because there are significant portions of the Canadian population that don't support the LGBT community. That's one of the things that, to their credit, Egale is focusing on. How do we educate teachers? Judges? Police? The RCMP? We're pretty solid in terms of public opinion, the courts and the laws, but we should not take for granted the gains we've made.
Secondly, the obvious one is transgender rights. Transgender people are where we [non-trans lesbian, gay, bisexual people] were 40 years ago, in terms of lack of human rights legislation and supports. Although it's passed in Ontario, it's not passed federally or in other provinces.
Thirdly, there are segments of the population that continue to be vulnerable in Canada. We know that bullying in schools is one, but also seniors. Many retirement homes are still pretty conservative, and many of us who are living our lives out don't want to go back into the closet or faces challenges if we retire to seniors facilities.
Finally, internationally. If you look at Earth from a satellite, you see no boundaries. In a sense, we are all one together on this one planet, and so we share a responsibility for the human rights of GLBT people in other places around the world.
It's an interesting point we're at as a community, because to some extent the gay community is kind of artificially held together by the threat to our rights. As that threat to our rights declines, the community naturally dissipates. So, for instance, you see more gay Conservatives than you would even 10 years ago. Also, bars tended to be where gay people, particularly gay men, congregated for cruising and social purposes. The bars are under stress nowadays, because Grindr is doing what the bars used to do. How we connect, how we communicate, how we build the community is shifting. So if we're going to continue to have some kind of an identity as a gay community, we're going to have to do it differently.