REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
When I began my journey as an openly gay man in 1974, I had really no idea where my life would take me. I had this great idea that perhaps I could make a difference in making a dent in the ongoing global discrimination that was a deterrent to the well-being, emotionally and physically, of members of the gay and lesbian community.
Of course, one must take into consideration that during those years it was very unwise and indeed dangerous to not only live life openly as a gay person, but living in small-town Nova Scotia everyone soon becomes aware of this strange guy who wants to “rid” the world of homophobia and discrimination.
I was 34 years old. In time, my family discovered my sexual orientation. That was almost a non-issue and this gave me great hope. My marriage had ended and my two children were now left to wonder the reason for the separation.
My oldest son left Nova Scotia to attend Queen’s University and soon also revealed his sexual orientation. Soon I discovered that we both had the same ambition to address the issues that were driving gays and lesbians into the proverbial closet. Later of course, members of the transgender community became involved and joined the various organizations that were formed to fight discrimination.
So began a journey that would take father and son into a direction that brought a family into embracing diversity, albeit with some reservations. Chris eventually moved to Toronto to become the Queer Parenting Program Co-ordinator at The 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto where he conducts classes for prospective gay fathers. He developed the first course of its kind in North America. For the past number of years he has been involved with lecturing regarding LGBT issues at various venues and is presently co-hosting a conference at the University of Guelph.
A few years ago I was invited to speak at the LGBT Seniors Group in Toronto and the two of us made up a panel that turned out to be an emotional experience for both of us. During my years as an activist I have been involved with numerous guest speaking events, but this event is at the top of my list as a profound experience.
I am extremely fortunate and dearly love my two sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Parenting and grandparenting is possible for all, regardless of sexual orientation. Indeed, a family affair. Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.