The pain of com­ing out, and the loss of a friend Think­ing about Marvin Ca­plan and his good deeds as liv­ing-wage vote looms at coun­cil

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT -

I skipped choir prac­tice again on Wed­nes­day night at St. Joe’s and headed over to First Uni­tar­ian in­stead for a PFLAG meet­ing. PFLAG, as it says on their re­source-rich web­site, pflag­, is a place to help par­ents and fam­ily mem­bers un­der­stand and ac­cept their LGBTQ+ kids.

“The “com­ing-out” process can be a crit­i­cal time for fam­i­lies. Peo­ple can­not al­ways rise above the chal­lenge of ac­cept­ing them­selves or their fam­ily mem­ber, and the re­sults can be dev­as­tat­ing, even fa­tal.

I once en­cour­aged my mom to go to a PFLAG meet­ing in Lon­don when I came out to her in my late 20s. She wasn’t into sup­port groups. I get it. It seems awk­ward. A bunch of strangers sit­ting knee to knee in a cir­cle say­ing things you never thought you’d have to say out loud. It’s not easy.

It’s not easy, yet it is life-sav­ing work. Many of the youth we see on our streets today are there be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. They might have been thrown out on mis­guided re­li­gious prin­ci­ples. Per­haps they left to es­cape the abuse that came when they were “dis­cov­ered.” Maybe they were just too scared to talk about it with par­ents who were per­ceived to never un­der­stand but who would have given any­thing to un­der­stand. It doesn’t mat­ter why. It has to stop. My mom didn’t want to go to PFLAG and, by the time I came out, I sup­pose she didn’t need to. She was even­tu­ally the mom who could be a model for oth­ers who may ini­tially strug­gle with the idea of hav­ing a queer or trans kid.

And yes, there are par­ents who are strug­gling and that’s OK as long as they can find a safe place to ask ques­tions. It doesn’t help to have friends say­ing, “Is your son still gay? It’s prob­a­bly just a phase.”

If you’re that friend, please come to PFLAG too and learn how to be a bet­ter friend. We need them.

One of our bet­ter friends died last week. Marvin Ca­plan took his role as an ally very se­ri­ously. As his wife Judi says, “His goal in life was to help make sure peo­ple could make it.”

When I first moved to Hamil­ton it was not out of de­sire. I had been fired for be­ing a les­bian in the small town in which I lived for six years. So when I ar­rived here I was drawn to com­ing out but was still work­ing in the Catholic Church and had to be care­ful. I took a chance and went to my first Pride event ever in 1994 with my part­ner at the time.

Pat and I showed up at the li­brary both scared and ex­cited to find a city coun­cil­lor, one Marvin Ca­plan, dap­perly dressed un­der­neath a Pride T-shirt and rain­bow as­cot, sound­ing like a rabbi and telling the small crowd how essen­tial it was for al­lies to stand with the LGBTQ com­mu­nity in Hamil­ton. We didn’t know, so deep in the closet were we, it had only been a cou­ple of years since the mayor at the time, Bob Mor­row, was fined for not al­low­ing the Pride flag to be raised at Hamil­ton City Hall.

Af­ter hear­ing our story, Marvin warmly wel­comed us to this great city to which he’d also moved from else­where, and as­sured us he would use his role as coun­cil­lor on the first “GBLT City Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee” as it was known then, to make this city a safe and pos­i­tive space for LGBTQ+ peo­ple.

When Marvin died sud­denly last Tues­day he was in the midst of an­other term as pres­i­dent of the lo­cal So­cial Plan­ning and Re­search Coun­cil, where I have worked since 2001.

In those 16 years Marvin has spo­ken pas­sion­ately in sup­port of all SPRC pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of LGBTQ+ Pos­i­tive Space.

He was also a fan of mak­ing Hamil­ton a liv­ing wage city, some­thing coun­cil has been drag­ging its feet on for nearly 10 years. This month they have an op­por­tu­nity to take an­other go at it and pay all part-time work­ers a liv­ing wage of $15.85 an hour.

I hope they are as com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure peo­ple can make it as Marvin was.

Deirdre Pike is a free­lance colum­nist for the Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor. PFLAG Hamil­ton-Went­worth meets the 1st Wed­nes­day of the month with more de­tails avail­able on Face­book. Coun­cil votes on mak­ing Hamil­ton a liv­ing wage city on Feb. 18. dpikeatthes­ or @deirdrepike

Many of the youth we see on our streets today are there be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.