I have been reading all the online posts over the last couple weeks regarding Pride week, and month, and it just makes me have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Now while the comments aren’t all bad, I still see and hear many comments, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, other social media, or in person, that simply make me cringe. Hell, we have fans who think it’s cool to cheer “Gay Aladdin” at a wrestler who wore parachute pants and kissed a guy on the forehead! The worst part of this, I see I used to be this way as well, but this past year has opened my eyes to a whole new world.
In many ways, I understand the stereotypes that come up with when it comes to Pride week, and the LGTBQ community. Not that I agree with them, but I understand where they can come from. In the past, I was one of those bigots. Let me explain…
I grew up in small town northern Alberta, with an older demographic. With that, older stereotypes take precedence. I hate to say that the community was a typical white catholic community, but a spade is a spade. If you weren’t a specific type of person, with a certain set of orientations, whether it be race or sexual preference, you were just simply not part of the community, one way or the other. Growing up in this environment, it seemed that this is normal. It takes a village to raise a child, and it seems that is the way I was raised. I was as big of a bigot as most people would hate. And didn’t even know it was wrong.
Fast forward to the early 2010’s. One the mentors I had in my life had suddenly completed a sex change. Out of the blue Jack had become a Jill. When this happened, I wasn’t sure what to think. A lot of confusion, a lot of anger, a gambit of emotions were running through me. I was not trying to understand what was going on. I was trying to understand why someone would do that to themselves, like it was a version of suicide or self-harm. For the most part I lost one of the people I trusted most, not because of what they had revealed, but how I reacted to it and chose to have someone I once looked up to and completely trusted become nothing more than an acquaintance. (As a side note, she is now one of the most prolific advocates to LGTBQ rights in Edmonton, along with being a strong influence throughout the world. Very proud of her.)
Fast forward to this past year, where my insight changed on everything forever. Following one of the local wrestling shows I was covering; I was driving home when I spotted an incident on the side of the road. These two guys were beating down a kid, couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16. I pulled over, and grabbed one of my tripod cases out of the back seat of my car. (It’s amazing what a black carrying case can look like in the dark.) I just yelled out at the attackers and got their attention away from the kid. I asked what they were doing, and all I got was “he’s a f***ing f*g”. Before I could get any closer, the guys ran off. I approached the kid, trying to see if he was ok. He was pretty banged up. I offered to take him to the Medi-centre, or to call his parents, or an ambulance, but he got completely spooked. He didn’t want anyone to know what happened, or more importantly why it happened. I tried to reason with him, but he just hobbled away. Never got his name and haven’t seen him to this day. I just hope he is ok.
While this event hit me hard, things like this don’t truly settle in until you know someone who is a part of it. And the funny part is, this stuff never hits you in a set up situation, but in the most random of moments. I was having a casual conversation with my best friend, the woman that the wrestling world knows as Kayla Jaye, when she revealed to me that she was bisexual. While I may not have shown it, feelings went all over the place, my mind seemed to be overloading at that exact second. All that programming growing up… all those stereotypes… all that hatred… all that bigotry… it became a shock to the system. “Bisexual people, gay people, they don’t act like her???” is all that ran through my head. I didn’t know how to react, but one thing I have grown to learn over the years is to gather all the facts before reacting. I have been asking questions about it, trying to learn more about the why’s and how’s of her lifestyle. With the more questions I have asked, and bless her heart Kayla has been more than accommodating in trying to answer them for me, I have learned a lot more respect for everything that Pride represents.
After this, I have learned that there are more people in the LGTBQ community around me than I thought, including the wrestling world. I won’t include their names here, mainly because I have not asked. But sufficed to say there is nothing “different” about them, contrary to any stereotypes that many feed off. Everyone has the goals and dreams and tries to live their lives to the fullest.
The biggest thing I have learned, besides knowing how much of a fool and a bigot I was, is that knowledge is the key to understanding. That just doesn’t go for me, it goes for anyone who doesn’t understand what Pride means to so many people. Pride Week isn’t about putting aside time for special people, it’s about reminding everyone that this world is for everyone, and no one should be living in fear or with ridicule. No matter race, colour, or sexual orientation, people should be allowed to live their lives the way they want, without having to worry about violence of discrimination. And do not forget in the past that there was extreme prejudice and discrimination, including violence. Pride Week is a celebration of openness and acceptance. I am so proud that Beercade, one of the sponsors for the media company I work for in Win Column Sports, has picked up the ball and is putting on a special celebration this Saturday for Pride Week.
I know there is a lot more I need to learn about people, and a lot of prejudices I need to reprogram personally. I may not be the perfect supporter yet. But with being willing to learn I feel is the start to improving to be a better person. Hopefully, in the future, Pride Weeks are not needed to be a thing, because that kind of prejudice will not be a thing. And who knows, maybe I can be the start of that new, more tolerant village, to teach our younger generation not only to be accepting, but to not need to think to accept.
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