Winter 2010
Letters to the Editor

Comments from readers about “Out and Proud,” elections in Iran and cycling in the city

Autumn 2009Were Iran’s Elections Rigged?
Your story on the Citizen Lab (“The New Freedom Fighters,” Autumn 2009) is guilty of two glaring omissions. First, it does not tell us if the presidential elections in Iran were, in fact, rigged to an extent that the rigging would have altered the outcome. The Washington Post and other American newspapers reported that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was leading by a margin of more than two to one in pre-election polls.

The second omission is that a large number of Iranians live in socially conservative urban and rural communities where YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have not yet set foot. These conservative Iranians look and think differently from the jeans and T-shirt–wearing urban youth you have highlighted in the article.

Personally, I am deeply saddened by Ahmadinejad’s re-election. I think Iranians deserve a better, more progressive leadership that recognizes and adheres to its domestic and international obligations. However, until such leadership is elected by the Iranians, they should not be turned into (Citizen) lab rats where the West tries to mould Iranians to alien dress codes and ideologies.

Murtaza Haider
MASc 1999, PhD 2003

The “Gay Agenda”
The letters in the last issue and on the magazine’s website that condemned the choice of “Out and Proud” (Summer 2009) as a cover topic, voiced concern about “the gay agenda” and denounced the degree programs in sexual diversity studies really concern me.

To the first matter: Given the prevalence with which matters concerning heterosexuals dominate the media, is it really so problematic to devote one cover article to a sexual minority group? Would the same be said if U of T Magazine featured African-Canadian rights struggles on its cover? I don’t think so.

As for the second matter, the “gay agenda” is a propaganda tool created by homophobic, narrow-minded heterosexuals who refuse to realize that the only “agenda” LGBTQ people have is to obtain the same rights as heterosexuals in terms of marriage, employment benefits, legal rights and public acceptance. Heterosexuals would be left stunned if the rights we as LGBTQ people are fighting for were removed from them. Yet this is how LGBTQ people live every day in most of the world – without protection from discrimination, without the ability to marry and receive spousal employment and health benefits, and without many other rights heterosexuals take for granted.

The third matter is equally concerning. The legitimacy of earning “a degree in the study of [our] own sexual practices” has been questioned. Yet should racial minorities not be able to study their own racial and cultural background, as in East Asian Studies or African and Caribbean studies? Or how about a woman who wants to study her sex and gender in women’s studies? The Sexual Diversity Studies program combines psychology, anthropology, gender studies, literature studies, sociology, epidemiology and a plethora of other fields in its multi-dimensional analysis of sexuality and gender. If that’s not a legitimate strand of study, I don’t know what is.

I still fail to understand why educated individuals seem to lose all ability to reason when sexual diversity matters come into play. These comments make me ashamed to call such people my fellow alumni.

Stephanie Cook
BPHE 2009

Proud of U of T
I was thoroughly stunned by the number of letters in your autumn issue objecting to – nay, ranting about – “Out and Proud.” Unlike Mike Scapillato and John Adamkovics, I am indeed proud that my alma mater has made such strides in welcoming LGBTQ students and nurturing their sense of self and community. And unlike D.R. Stoll, I understand extremely well why “we” don’t feel the need to proclaim “our” heterosexuality in the street – it’s out there already, all the time, proclaimed without shame or fear on our behalf in ways many gay, lesbian and trans men and women still can barely imagine. Your correspondents seem to miss the fundamental point of your story: that U of T is building a more democratic, more ethically sound campus by giving space, voice and power to a group of students whose predecessors had to hide – both for fear, and for shame – in the shadows.

Kim Solga
PhD 2004 
London, Ontario

Canada’s True Culture
U of T alumni should be proud of the fact that their alma mater recognizes and celebrates minorities. If it were up to people such as D.R. Stoll, who would prefer not to read about “fringe populations” (Letters, Autumn 2009), then I suppose U of T Magazine’s autumn issue would not have featured important stories about democracy in Iran, or how U of T Scarborough helps Chinese students adapt to Canadian culture, or New College’s Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health program or Toronto’s new Afrocentric school.

U of T encompasses a mosaic of cultures – gay and straight, white and black, Asian and European – because that is the true culture of Canada. To suggest otherwise is frankly insulting to a large number of U of T alumni.

Kunal Chaudhry
Master of Urban Design 2009

Double Standard?
Why is publishing blatantly homophobic letters still considered “representing all viewpoints,” whereas similar comments about race, gender, ability, class and so on would be relegated to the “unfit for print” pile (and rightly so)? I assume that U of T Magazine adheres to some kind of standards – would you publish similar letters if they were blatantly anti-Semitic? Or anti-poor? Homophobia seems to be the last domain where it is perfectly fine to be offensive and call it a “point of view.”

Jeff Myers
MA 2007 OISE

Straight and Narrow
I generally enjoy U of T Magazine but lately I’ve been growing tired of the imagery celebrating heterosexual liaisons (see pages 39 and 52 of the Autumn 2009 issue). I have no problem with heterosexuals. A few of them are my friends. But what people do in private should be kept private. Why does their chosen way of life have to be rammed down my throat every time I read the magazine?

Graeme Parry
BA 1995 Innis

ASK First
In “Out and Proud,” Anne Perdue refers to the founding of the University of Toronto Homophile Association in 1969 and asserts that it was, “arguably, the first gay liberation organization in the country.” The association may have been the first lesbian and gay rights organization in Toronto, but certainly not in Canada.

The Association for Social Knowledge (“ASK”), formed in April 1964 in Vancouver, was the first lesbian and gay rights organization in Canada. Its objectives included public education and supporting law reform. Lesbians, gay men and heterosexuals were members. ASK organized lectures and community events, opened the first lesbian and gay community centre in Canada, and published a newsletter. It disbanded in early 1969.

The history of ASK is considered in detail in standard references such as Gary Kinsman’s The Regulation of Desire and Donald McLeod’s Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada.

Donald Casswell
BSc 1972 UC, LLM 1980
Profess or Emeritus of Law
University of Victoria

Fluid Identities
As an LGBT student at the University of Toronto, I feel that Anne Perdue’s article “Out and Proud” is a testament to the tolerance I have found in the university community. Increasingly, society is accepting people like me, and is allowing us to lead more “normal” lives.

LGBT political activism arises from years of discrimination, marginalization and homophobic policies. I would recommend that alumni interested in the subject read Ritch C. Savin-Williams’ book The New Gay Teenager (Harvard University Press, 2005). It discusses the attitudes of LGBT teenagers toward their sexuality, and how vocal they are about it. He finds that, among teenagers, sexual identities are becoming more fluid and less easy to define. Thus, the political significance of Pride marches and protests seems to be declining.

Matthew Gray
Second-year International Relations student
University of Toronto

Respecting Beliefs
It’s interesting to learn that the head of Citizen Lab once thought that “breaking into churches to wolf down communion wafers” was a way to have a good time (“The Troublemaker,” Autumn 2009). Perhaps it was only predictable that Ron Deibert often made trouble by questioning the nuns and Church dogma since he “thought it was all nonsense.” Thank goodness – or whatever force we should be thanking – that sports and reading saved him from purgatory!

I’m not sure whether the writer considers these stories to be chummy little anecdotes that will build empathy for Professor Deibert. Some people will consider the first reference sacrilegious. Many more would consider such behavior a sure sign that he was never taught how to behave in church, or how to respect the beliefs of others. This is unfortunate, because his views on freedom of expression and his work in promoting it certainly sound very valuable, and important to the upholding of freedom of religious belief as well as freedom of expression.

Joanne McGarry
Executive director, Catholic Civil Rights League Toronto

Legal Weapons
Please reel in any urban-parochial impulses when casually commenting about “criminal activities, such as… possessing weapons” (“Exit Strategy,” Autumn 2009). In free countries such as ours, a variety of weapons may be legally possessed, such as those found in any kitchen or many pockets, or used by members of your late Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs.

Frank Eigler
BASc 1995, MEng 2000
 Brantford, Ontario

Pedestrian Rage
Kristen Courtney wonders when city streets will be safe for cyclists (“Breaking the Cycle,” Autumn 2009). My question is, when will pedestrians be safe from cyclists?

Many cyclists have no regard for people who are walking. Twice I have been hit by bikes and verbally abused because I had the audacity to get in their way. In both cases, I had the green light, so I was in a legal position to cross the street.

It’s bad enough that drivers don’t understand the rules of the road – and there are many of those – but I see a lot of “sidewalk rage” building between cyclists and pedestrians. This is unfortunate because there are so many healthy aspects to walking. I wonder what rights Courtney thinks pedestrians should have.

Lynne Ross
Faculty/Facilities Assistant
Faculty of Law

Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Kirkendale BA%201955 on January 19th, 2010 @ 11:57 am

For someone who was privileged to have attended school in Toronto when English was still taught there, it is astonishing how successful the feminists – allergic even to masculine indefinite pronouns (traditionally inclusive of both genders) – have been in violating the most elementary principles of our language.

Even the University of Toronto recently committed an error that once would have been severely censured in public school. I am referring to your appeal for funding for the Soldier’s Tower – a legitimate cause – with the wording “Every soldier needs someone to remember them.

Apparently avoiding the offensive masculine pronoun has taken priority over even minimally correct grammar.

Warren Kirkendale
BA 1955

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