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ELLIOTT COLUMN: Contemplate – and demonstrate - compassion for GLBTTIQ+ community

Sharon Dalove’s performance was Mike Butler’s drag debut. “Wow that felt great – so empowering and so awesome that people loved it!” he said.
Sharon Dalove’s performance was Mike Butler’s drag debut. “Wow that felt great – so empowering and so awesome that people loved it!” he said. - Sara Ericsson

It was about a dozen years ago that two women were married in the Acadia University chapel. A Justice of the Peace did the ceremony very quietly. Last month, two men were married in the same chapel by the chaplain and rainbow-coloured wedding photos appeared on the front pages of two Valley papers.

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On July 28, it was very moving to attend the Wolfville Area Pride group’s celebration of spirit, held in that same university chapel. The theme was compassion.

The mother of a gay young man spoke about the trials of belonging to a non-affirming church as he tries to find peace. She said the family banks on Jesus’ words about mercy, loyalty and justice.

From her brother’s hospital bedside in Toronto, Dale Gruchy, who was to have been the officiant, sent her meditation to Wolfville, stating, “without compassion, I suspect we have nothing.”

She said, “It is easy to demonstrate compassion when approaching those we love and cherish, not so for those we feel challenged by or perhaps even feel distain for. Yet, this is the time where I sense it is most needed and most important.”

Compassion extends not only to others, Gruchy noted, but to oneself. Who are we if we cannot be kind to ourselves?

“The GLBTTIQ+ community has been oppressed, many generations before us have faced challenges. This doesn’t mean that the future cannot be different for us or those coming in the future.”

Gruchy, who teaches community outreach at Kingtec, says, “Our journey is not over. Much oppression still exists. Oppression does not exempt us from compassion, towards others and among ourselves.”

Gruchy called for each of those present to commit to random acts of kindness throughout the next year.

“They can be anonymous or not, be completed individually or within a group. The purpose is to support the building of a caring and compassionate community.”

Joan Boutillier, a member of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, spoke of the advocacy the commission does and the need for affirming allies.

The Rainbow Chorus sang about positive self-identity. Their rendition of Labi Siffre’s song, Something Inside So Strong, was very touching.

It goes: “Deny my place in time, You squander wealth that's mine, My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you cos there's...Something inside so strong.”

That kind of strength is being exhibited in many parts of the world these days. In Australia, for example, an openly gay Imam hopes to open that country’s first LGBTQ-friendly mosque soon.

Nur Warsame has been inundated with cries for help from gay Muslims who feel they have nowhere to turn after being excommunicated from their families.

In 2010, Warsame was cut off by the Islamic community in Australia after he revealed his sexuality.

In this country, we took steps this year to recognize Jim Eagan for his battle starting back in the 1950s for gay rights. “The homosexual is the sole remaining minority who can be sneered at, reviled, libeled, and spat upon with virtual impunity,” Eagan wrote in 1963.

Now, 18 years after his death, this civil rights pioneer will be better known because of a new Heritage Minute. The 60-second short films that spotlight important people and moments in Canadian history looks at the time when being gay was criminal.

The actor playing Jim Egan in this heritage clip is Theodore Saunders, a graduate of Acadia University's theatre program. Professor John J. Guiney Yallop, whose family spent time with Egan and his long-time partner late in their lives, calls the Heritage Minute “a brilliant performance; Jim would be honoured.”

Contemplate compassion, practice random kindness and take a minute to watch:

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