What would you do if you were stuck in a room full of people who don’t know you but hate you anyway?
The U.S. is just settling into the reality of legal, same-gender marriage, but it’s been allowed in Canada for years.
Paul Lalonde remembers the fight. He was part of it, and horrified at what people were saying about people like him. He took it very personally…they were speaking to him.
And then he got trapped in a room with the very man who had been loud voice in the anti-gay movement.
In his words:
My name is Paul Lalonde and I’m from Cornwall, Ontario, in Canada.
About a decade ago when I was about 22 or 23, the same-sex marriage campaign in Canada was ramping up quite a bit so some of the courts were starting to overturn the laws and gay people were starting to get married in certain provinces but not all, so similar to what was going on in the United States where some states had marriage but not all, so the same thing was going on in Canada. And what it did was it created a lot of backlash from within the Christian community and so a lot of Catholic churches and priests were saying sermons against gays and against gay marriage and a lot of Christian organizations started to organize around that idea as well, to oppose same-sex marriage.
Around that time I became obsessed with watching this one television station called “Crossroads Television System” which is actually just a Christian TV station and had a lot of Christian shows and every Sunday night there was this guy, Charles McVety, who is also the president of the Christian College and he was really involved in the movement and was seen as a de facto leader of the anti same-sex marriage cause. He would come on Sunday night around 8pm and I would set my watch, 8pm every Sunday because I had to watch him. He would just go on and on about how if gays get married, it would be the end of society, nothing will work, trains wouldn’t be on time, it would be terrible, chaos everywhere. I think what made me so mad is that when I would watch him, he would be talking to me, directly at me, and telling me that I’m a terrible person and I’m awful and I would be a terrible father. I had been a lifeguard for years and I’ve been great with kids and I knew I wanted to be a dad and I knew I wanted to get married and these were things that I wanted for myself and this guy’s telling me, “No, you’re terrible and it’s not going to work for you and we’re just not going to let it happen.”
And just one day I couldn’t stand it anymore, I was like, “I have to get involved, I have to do something, I have to fight against this guy.”
I thought of this organization called “EGALE Canada.” “EGALE” is the French word for “equal” and it’s also an acronym for “Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere”. I was really proud to be part of it and I stayed for about two years and through it I got to see same-sex marriage passed through Parliament. It was voted by our legislators. But in the fall election Conservatives came into power and one of the campaign promises was to have a debate to see whether or not we should reopen the discussion over same-sex marriage and possibly overturn it. And one day this group, this Christian organization that was organizing a “Day of Mourning” for Canadian society because we were going to Hell with all this gay marriage, organized this day of meetings and stuff, and this guy had asked me if I would go as their mole and just kind of take notes to see what are they saying, what they were talking about so that we would have something to know, and what were their arguments against us. So I was on board, I was like, “Send me in there, guys, I’m part of the team, I want to do this, let’s go.”
I showed up and the person leading the entire day was this guy that I used to watch every Sunday at 8pm, Charles McVety. The only problem now is that I couldn’t change the channel after five minutes, I was enraged, I had to just sit there and listen to this guy and tell me that I’m going to be an awful parent, society is going to hell and all that stuff. And I think it was actually sitting through that day, that rather than actually being angry, because I wasn’t anymore, we won, we got what we wanted, I had won, I beat him, but instead I just almost pitied him. I was looking at this guy like, “Really? You’re still fighting this? Dude, get over it.”
If you got to know us, if you kind of got pulled into our world and got to see that it’s not as bad as you think it is, you’d probably see that we’re just decent human beings just trying to be happy, trying to make a life, and you can be a part of it. You can be a part of this movement that we’re trying to be a part of, we’re trying to build a society that’s much more inclusive. And it made me realize that organizations like EGALE that bring people together, these people that don’t fit in, that don’t have a home, that kind of bring people together are so much more important and so much more valuable to society, and also they they create a sense of belonging and kind of minimized that anger that was fueling me before. I didn’t, I wasn’t as angry as I used to be, I wasn’t angry like I was initially, and I was much happier.
When I see people who rage out, I just want to talk to them and calm them down and be like, “No, just focus on your goal, go meet people, be involved but in a positive way, and try to include your opponents as well. Don’t try to minimize them, don’t be angry against them. Realize that you’re all part of the same society, that you’re all part of the same community. And even though you might hate them even though, really deep down in your core you’re angry, it’s the other emotions, the much more positive ones, the ones that lead you to try to create a more inclusive society, those are the ones that ultimately are going to make you a lot happier.”
Originally published on ImFromDriftwood.com.