Commentary  Letters: Thoughts on LGBT and military stories; the crime of skateboarding

Queer McGill should recognize power struggles

Re: “Queer McGill should evaluate its legacy” | Commentary | Oct. 6

The institutionalized and systemic oppression that queers are subject to is in no way synonymous with the sporadic disadvantaging of straightness in queer spaces. A safe space for queers strives, in part, to let us express ourselves in ways we cannot otherwise. If this includes the venting of anger and frustration that comes from being queer in a homophobic, transphobic, and heterosexist society by engaging in “straight bashing,” then so be it. Part of being an ally means dealing with this kind of discomfort – it means confronting one’s straight privilege head on.

Having said that, talk of the inclusiveness of the entire student body in Queer McGill proves to be rife with contradiction. A standardized policy of inclusiveness assumes that everyone is found to be on equal footing in society. We’d hope that Queer McGill would swiftly reject a claim like this in so far as it is an organization premised on the existence of power differences. A singular prescription for inclusiveness doesn’t make sense for an organization that recognizes the realities of inequality.

If we’re going to start criticizing Queer McGill, we need to look at the ways in which race, racism, and racialization are repeatedly marginalized within the organization. Queerness and race – whether “black, white, or purple” – are inextricably linked. This cavalier treatment of race by Name Withheld reflects the cavalier treatment of race generally in our white-supremacist society. Queer oppression as being solely reducible to issues of gender and sexuality is a white-washed notion indeed.

Matt Lee

U1 Arts

Lisa Miatello

U3 Women’s Studies

There’s more than one side to every story

Re: “LGBT sensitivity training not up to par: Queer McGill” | News | Oct. 6

As a former McGill undergraduate, current graduate student, and Safe Space facilitator, I was dismayed to read Ms. Theodorakis’ piece. The article demonstrates very little knowledge of the content, history, and purpose of the Safe Space program at McGill – which began delivering workshops on queer issues to faculty, staff, and student leaders in 2004.

The criticisms of Safe Space seem to be that the program does not reflect what students experience on campus, that the professors who attend workshops are already queer-positive by virtue of having self-selected, and that the program caters “to the older population of professors,” somehow jeopardizing the program’s integrity as though professors were not a focus of Safe Space’s efforts. Queer McGill administrator Aubrey Trask is also quoted as effectively saying that Safe Space does more harm than good, implying that a lot of money is pumped into Safe Space as though it is a campus-wide sensitivity training initiative. Not only do these accusations misrepresent the actual conditions in which Safe Space operates (i.e., there is no money), but they completely miss the point regarding what the program actually does.

Safe Space is not a campus-wide vehicle for sensitivity training, as implied in the article. It is a group whose goal is modest yet important: to empower, through outreach and peer education, individual members of the McGill faculty/staff community who are or who want to become queer positive. This enables participants to make changes in their workplace toward creating safe(r) spaces for non-heterosexual and gender non-normative people. As I understand it, participant self-selection is the essence of the program.

Further, the accusation that Safe Space misguidedly caters to “older professors” is ageist, and the suggestion that Safe Space has never worked with Queer McGill to revise program content is – to my knowledge – blatantly untrue. Anyone who has been involved in the countless revision processes would have verified this, and as far as I know no one from Safe Space was contacted.

This article is one-sided and sensationalist, creating an issue where none exists through wild speculation and insufficient research. In my humble opinion, such time and energy should not be spent on dividing a very small community.

Liz Airton

MA Education and Gender Studies

Safe Space Facilitator

Don’t fall victim to apathy!

Re: “Hey you, there’s an election coming your way!” | News | Oct. 6

First and foremost, I love you all. Well, really only your staffers that I know. And love is a strong word. So I should be careful. Anyway.

I was sad to see that the upcoming federal election here in the great confederation of Canada, only got a quarter page of coverage tucked away in a corner of page six. Not only is this troubling for those of us who just so happen to be American but inexplicably obsessed with the Canadian election, but it also makes me worry about Canada’s image to the world.

Do you want the world to hate you? I’ve been there. I’m American for Christ’s sake. People fucking hate me because of something as arbitrary as my nationality. As of now, you all have the luxury of being loved by the whole world (mostly because of Hotel Rawanda), but that will not just stick around forever! A Harper majority? Are you shitting me? The quickest way to achieve this, of course, is to not pay any attention to what is happening.

Fall victim to apathy! Don’t talk about the election or the election issues in student-run independent sick-ass newspapers! Let Harper get that majority, enter Iraq, help the U.S. invade Iran, and we can all sit together as our economies crash and burn in a self loathing pool of lava.

Benny lava, that is.

Now, I’m guessing you all were planning an election issue anyway, so this just may make me seem like an idiot, but it’s gotta be said. Please vote (strategically). Please educate yourselves about election issues (everyone). Please use the news and this student base as a critical mass, capable of achieving some social change.

Paul Gross

U3 Anthropology

Resister? More like deserter

Re: “U.S. war resister can stay in Canada for now” | News | Sept. 29

The News brief on U.S. Army private Jeremy Hinzman raises an important semantic concern.

Throughout the article, Hinzman is referred to as a “war resister.” I do not take issue with this characterization because I do not support Mr. Hinzman or the Canadian government with regard to his case. Indeed, I hope that Hinzman’s bid to stay in Canada is successful, regardless of his character, and that the Canadian government remain accommodating in its granting of political asylum to foreign soldiers who are persecuted in their countries for conscientious objection.

Describing Hinzman as a “war resister,” or his legal troubles as the product of persecution for conscientious objection, however, are both inaccurate assessments of his situation, and imply the existence of a decidedly political dimension in an issue – contentious as it is – where there is none to be found.

As I am sure Daily staff are aware, there are many thousands of Americans who would consider themselves war resisters. The manifestations of their sentiments are diverse, but the American government has never sought to prosecute Americans simply for disagreeing with or “resisting” the war, and the Canadian government has never mulled the possibility of deporting them. I should hope it hasn’t, anyway – I might soon find myself in hot water.

If Hinzman were deported, he would face a court-martial – not because he is a war resister, but because he is an Army deserter. Though Hinzman’s flight assumes a very different colour in light of what is now an almost universally unpopular war, it is important that The Daily clearly communicates the nature of his decision, whether or not it constitutes a crime in the opinions of the staff.

Mike Prebil

U1 History

Skateboarding is not a crime.

Oh wait…it is

Last Thursday, I was skateboarding down Ste. Catherines when two cops pulled me over. They were surprisingly friendly given my preconceived notions about police in Quebec, but despite this, they proceeded to tell me what I was doing was a crime. Not only is skateboarding anywhere in Quebec not allowed, if caught, I can be charged $120 and have my board seized.

I’m 97 per cent sure that I have not seen a novelty T-shirt exclaiming that “Skateboarding Is Not A Crime” in at least eight years, but maybe that’s because it is again.

So for all of you who have been whining about having to walk your bikes through campus; throw on a helmet and brave the streets like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, embrace the fact that your environmentally-friendly method of transport is not against the law.

Jonah Greisman

U2 Cultural Studies

More letters were received than could be printed. They will appear in the next possible issue. Send your letters to The Daily does not print letters that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful.