PANIC DE­FENCE

Geist - - Endnotes - —Stephen Os­borne

bar­bara find­lay, QC, prefers to see her name in low­er­case let­ters. She is a renowned rights ac­tivist and lawyer whose life and whose work for LGBTQ and in­dige­nous peo­ple are re­vealed in In Par­tic­u­lar, bar­bara find­lay, a 54-minute doc­u­men­tary bril­liantly di­rected by Becca Plucer and re­leased at film fes­ti­vals in 2015. bar­bara find­lay de­scribes her­self as a lawyer, and there­fore a mem­ber of a priv­i­leged group, who did not her­self have the same civil and hu­man rights as ev­ery­one else: a para­dox that be­came cen­tral to her life and her “lawyer­ing.” In 1967 (when gay sex was a crime and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity a form of in­san­ity), she was in­car­cer­ated in a men­tal asy­lum in On­tario for the (un­named) af­flic­tion of “les­bian­ism,” a term that she had to dis­cover through her own re­search. In the film she de­scribes a road trip to San Fran­cisco in the 1960s, where she dis­cov­ered her first women’s book­store and, even more lib­er­at­ing, a shelf filled with les­bian books. When she en­tered the le­gal pro­fes­sion in 1977 she had to pro­duce a cer­tifi­cate of san­ity; and as her self-con­scious­ness de­vel­oped fur­ther, she un­der­stood that she her­self had ab­sorbed so­ci­ety’s view of her as some­one evil, crim­i­nal, crazy or all three. Her field of strug­gle be­gan with the rights of les­bians and gay men, and has grown to in­clude the safety of trans­gen­dered kids in schools, gen­der iden­tity on le­gal doc­u­ments, the rights of same-sex cou­ples to at­tend each other in hos­pi­tals and at deathbeds, and even at funer­als; the rights of chil­dren and same-sex par­ents; the rights of First Na­tions chil­dren and their par­ents ex­tends the field into the roots of our his­tory. This is a dry list of “causes”: their re­al­ity is vis­ceral and can be felt through­out the movie, which rises and falls with para­dox, laugh­ter and tears. I for one had never heard of the gay panic de­fence (still al­lowed in Cana­dian law): to hear of it (at last) is to laugh and cry at the same time. The “in par­tic­u­lar” clause re­ferred to in the ti­tle of the movie is from sec­tion 15 of the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms: bar­bara find­lay’s ex­pli­ca­tion of those two words demon­strates how the struc­tures of le­gal­ity se­lect for mem­ber­ship in a com­mu­nity, a na­tion, and how they can equally can de­s­e­lect, ex­clude and even elim­i­nate. This is a bril­liant and nec­es­sary film, en­tirely suit­able to its il­lus­tri­ous sub­ject. Down­load the movie for six bucks at itunes, linked from: http://www.bar­barafind­lay.com/.

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