A Tragedy in II Acts
Last week, residents of our community were publicly attacked and I missed it: completely missed it.
Two local business owners embarked on a homophobic attack against the Bordello and Theatre Outré (http://bit.ly/1dinp2Q). One outcome of the attack was the revelation that the Theatre was operating without a business license and a development permit. As Chair of the Municipal Planning Commission, I focused on what I believed to be a simple issue of process: Theatre Outré was operating a theatre without a business licence and without a development permit, as per our Land Use Bylaw. In my mind, the resolution to this issue seemed straight forward as the theatre company need only to apply for the permits and the problem should resolve itself.
Unfortunately, my perspective ignored a tragic reality: The Bordello and Theatre Outré were attacked by two homophobic business owners in our city. This is where the Act II began.
Following the realization that the Theatre and the Bordello were the targets of homophobia, there was no response on the attack from your civic leaders.
I am sorry for not immediately condemning the homophobic attitudes of the business owners. As a democratically elected leader of this community, it is incumbent upon me to stand in defence of residents when they are attacked in such an ignorant, prejudicial and hateful manner.
When I remain silent, the message my silence sends is, "expressing your hatred for others is acceptable in Lethbridge." It is not!
While the hatred and intolerance expressed in this assault was targeted at an identifiable group within our community, my silence turned it into an assault on all of us. Yes - saying nothing meant that the only voices that stood in support of Theatre Outré came from our LGBQQTTIA residents and some allies. But it also meant that we perpetuate the unspoken belief that homophobia - in essence, all the deeper sins against otherness: racism, discrimination and exclusion - are permitted behaviours in Lethbridge. They are not!
As such ...
To my fellow residents who were offended by my silence, for not defending my friends and neighbours, and for not defining what values Lethbridge should hold: I apologize. I acknowledge my error in judgement and my lack of leadership on this issue.
Like any tragedy, there is an opportunity to learn from the lessons, and hopefully I have learned from it.
I firmly believe that Lethbridge can be an inclusive community where each of us can live free from overt and benign expressions of prejudice, intolerance and discrimination. I believe that, as a community, we can overcome the ignorance that creates 'fear of difference' and that limits our ability to understand our interconnectivity. I believe that we are a community that is changing, but that change can bring new hope and opportunities for those traditionally marginalized in our city.
Finally, I believe that Lethbridge is a community of compassion. For as much as I am offended by the verbal attack on Theatre Outré, the business owners are members of our community and, as such, need to be included and need to receive our compassion. Excluding those who exclude others does not build a strong community. Values of inclusivity, equity, diversity and compassion build strong communities. As a leader in this community, I am committed to these values and to seeing them expressed every day.
If you support these values and you want to help strengthen our community, please consider participating in the upcoming CMARD conference and learn how we can become an inclusive city that celebrates our diversity.
Please help me make this a city where we all belong!
One last note: Like our other theatre companies, the Bordello and Theatre Outré fill a unique space and need in our city. Through their productions, Theatre Outré challenges norms, established expectations, predetermined notions and stereotypes by turning what we think we know into what we had never stopped to consider. That's not a bad thing in today's pre-determined, mass marketing world! Thank you for your work, Theatre Outré!