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Opinion

What Straight People Are Getting Wrong About Andrew Scheer's Queer Problem​

Many Conservatives have progressive values when it comes to LGBTQ rights. It’s a shame their leader is unable to get with the times.

by Justin Ling
Nov 12 2019, 8:21pm

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer seen in October 2019. Photo via The Canadian Press.

I am so tired of hearing straight people talk about gay marriage.

From the endless questions thrown to (still) Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer about his opinions on gay marriage (or, as I call it, marriage), to his defenders in the press decrying the pro-marriage “jihad.”

It’s a master class in missing the mark. It’s infuriating.

I, actually, agreed with Scheer, when he first responded to it on the campaign trail: Gay marriage has been decided. By the courts and by Parliament. Any politician seriously suggesting we roll back the clock should be expected to be shot into electoral oblivion.

And that's how I felt when Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party first began dredging up Scheer's past statements on gay marriage.

Even as Scheer totally fumbled one question after another, I still figured that he would, eventually, figure out an answer to this. How he, personally, doesn’t believe in equal marriage, and he would skip the Pride parade because he is intimidated by people dancing, but that he would show his support in other ways.

Well, that was stupid of me.

Between Scheer's problem with marriage and his childish refusal to march in Pride, it's easy to chalk it up to Scheer being stubborn. Many Conservatives I've spoken to over recent months were convinced this was a tactic. Don't give your opponent the fish to slap you with, the theory went.

We're long past that. Scheer has been asked, ad nauseam, every iteration of the question. He has responded the same way ever time but once: Asked, in French, whether he would attend a same-sex wedding for one of his children, Scheer said yes, without hesitation.

But asked pointedly whether he thinks being gay is itself a sin, just last week, Scheer said woodenly: "My personal opinion is that I respect the rights of every single Canadian." Which is, of course, not an answer to the question nor is it a personal opinion—it is a political one.

Can you imagine a leader responding that, when asked his opinions about Romanians? Or childless couples?

Scheer is now in for the fight of his short political life as leader. His inability to take down a prime minister literally caught doing blackface doesn’t bode well for his political chops. But many Conservatives, including the queer ones, are now wondering how they can run a guy who seems incapable of talking to queer people.

I wasn’t keen to write anything about Scheer’s rainbowless connection. Trying to break through the gaggle of straight dude columnists bloviating on the issue is rarely worth it. Writing about these issues can often get you typecast as the annoyed queer. As in: Now that we’ve heard from the annoyed queer, let’s turn to our lobbyist panel to hear their thoughts. And then suddenly you’re called up to write a pleasant little blog over every story that affects one letter in the acronym.

Take, during the election, the call I had with a certain very-senior editor at a very-big publication. It was a no, to the dozen pitches I had sent the outlet about a variety of topics that would have worked well as an election series about important issues that were under-covered and misunderstood. But, did I want to write something about how the gays were giving Scheer a hard time?

No, I did not. I will not play Little Homo on the Fucking Prairie.

And then you pitch a column like this one, which I did, where I actually volunteer to write about queer things. Editors aren’t enthused—unless, of course, you could write it from your experience as a gay man. I may be a political reporter and sometimes-columnist, but here I’ve got to play the gay card in order for the point to carry. And, OK, fine, that’s what I’ve done here. Happy?

But the straights have fucked up the coverage of Scheer’s leadership woes so badly, that it bears point out two things.

First: Most queer people aren’t terribly concerned about losing marriage. The rights we already have are backed up by the courts, and are supported by the vast majority of politicians, including most of the Conservative caucus. What concerns many are the existing rights we have not being respected. Healthcare is a reliable right for many Canadians, yet queer people face spotty access to many services. There has been a marked rise in hate crimes against queer people, and trans people in particular report a well-founded wariness of police—perhaps in part because of several high-profile unsolved murders of trans women in recent years.

Men who have sex with men are banned from donating blood, discriminatory laws remain on the books, conversion therapy isn’t banned country-wide, and so on—all the other parties recognize these problems. Not the Conservatives. And Scheer isn’t being asked about these issues.

Second: Straights seem to automatically assume that if Scheer isn’t comfortable talking about queer issues, recognize gay marriage, or march in a parade, it must be his religion.

I don’t think that’s it. There are a huge number of religious politicians who can’t square gay marriage with their faith—and that’s fine. They acknowledge that, and are still capable of talking to members of the community and worked with them in other ways. One issue of Christian doctrine shouldn’t stop them from engaging with a community made up of millions. It’s love the sinner, hate the sin, innit?

So, here's a simpler question: What if Andrew Scheer, personally, has a problem dealing with queer people?

There's no gospel or theology behind it. What if, he, as a matter of personal choice, does not like what the LGBTQ community stands for, at the very least; and personally objects to queerness, at the worst.

Why give him the benefit of the doubt, when he has done not a damn thing to suggest otherwise? He has not said, or done, a thing that actually speaks to any concerns or issues facing the LGBTQ community. He has talked about us and around us, instead of actually to us.

The Conservative Party platform from the election, encouragingly, recognized the plight of queer refugees abroad, though said nothing about what Ottawa would do for them once they arrive. Scheer, too, read a statement in the House deploring the federal government’s purge of LGBTQ public servants, telling Parliament: “In this country, we deplore and condemn injustice towards the innocent, the oppressed, and the persecuted.” Yet he hasn’t repeated that sentiment since.

The Conservatives ran four LGBTQ candidates in the election. And, believe me, there’s no shortage of queer Tories. Just one openly gay Conservative MP was elected, and he’s already been openly critical of Scheer’s position.

And there are countless Conservatives waiting in the wings who could actually be a leader who doesn’t actively put off queer people. While the party has, obviously, been hostile to the LGBTQ community in the past, that has largely changed. Even if not all Tories can agree on how to address problems facing queer people, most serious conservative politicians can at least agree there are problems. Pick one of them to lead the party. Queer folks aren’t well served when any party in Parliament is indifferent or outright hostile to the issues facing them, big and small.

We are a point in society, now, where being accepting of the queer community—not necessarily supportive, or celebratory—but being accepting is the bare minimum. Scheer's public position is begrudging acknowledgement. That's not good enough.

And we didn't get here by accident or mistake. The community has organized to make this reality, just like Catholics in this country once fought to root out anti-Catholic bias in politics.

If Scheer's personal beliefs won't allow him to actually respect the LGBTQ community, he shouldn't be leader.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter.

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Politics
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LGBTQ
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Andrew Scheer