An Open Letter to Vince Agovino

Dear Mr. Agovino,
Recently, in your campaign for the position of Member of Provincial Parliament in Willowdale, you sent out a letter (p1, p2, p3, ad) to all constituents. In this letter, you included an advertisement for a petition regarding the sex ed program in Ontario schools, and a long explanation about the problems you see regarding Ontario schools (Catholic schools, specifically) and the "Gay Agenda".

I have to start by saying that your letter lost some of its impact by arriving at my house on October 12th, a little too late for the October 6th election (besides, I voted in the advance polls). However, I did find it quite insulting that Canada Post seems to think that one cent of postage was not sufficent for this letter, and that I am now personally responsible for $1.81 in outstanding postage.

The mode of delivery of this particular letter, however, is not what offends me the most. What offends me are the views expressed in this letter. But first, a little about myself.  I was born in Ontario and was a student in Ontario's Catholic school system from Grade 1 onwards. As a child, I didn't know lots of things, including much about homosexuality (or, let's face it, about sexuality at all). But I did know that someone you didn't like in the schoolyard was called a "fag", though I didn't use that word very often.

Now, I am living in Willowdale and am raising a family of my own. In a way, my situation is a bit like yours. However, our choice of city (and provincial riding) appear to be the only similarities we share. Because frankly, I found it incredibly offensive that your letter establishes your campaign platform along the following two ideas:
  1. Sexual education for children is bad. 
  2. Gays are bad, or at least, should be ignored, and certainly not supported in schools.
The first point is one that I've already rebutted on my blog.  In a nutshell, the sex ed curriculum changes that the Liberal government had proposed was almost completely unremarkable, and it should have simply been implemented as-is. It is total misinformation and fear-mongering to suggest that children will be learning about "sex" when they should be learning to tie their shoes.  That argument doesn't even make sense. Children can learn more than one thing at a time and the sex-ed curriculum doesn't bump out any other useful knowledge. And also, learning about anatomy is not the same thing as learning about sexual intercourse. Attempting to equate those two things is, basically, lying. Learning about anatomy, and privacy, are important things to teach small children who otherwise can't articulate themselves when an adult abuses them, and this is what the early sex-ed curriculum addresses. Suffice to say, the government was making a positive change with that curriculum and my disappointment lies in the fact that they backed down because of a rabid, uninformed, fear-mongering outcry.

Your second platform point is actually far worse than your first. Your letter reads as a thinly veiled warning that if we don't elect you, the gays are going to have their way with our children. You must really not like gays. Because if you cared about them at all, you'd be appalled that a gay student killed himself in Ottawa recently, and that he did so because he was bullied by homophobic teenagers in his school. And Gay-Straight Alliances, which the Catholic school boards are resisting tooth-and-nail, are an important tool to help deal with that kind of bullying. But your campaign letter says that you will fight tirelessly to ensure that Catholic schools are free to allow students to bully gays.

How does an educated person in 2011 get to be so wrong about such an issue? Let's pretend that instead of gay students we are talking about black students, or Chinese students. If schools were full of systematic bullying and intolerance for black or Chinese students, wouldn't you want the schools to set up programs to help alleviate this? Wouldn't you support the government's attempts to solve this problem? I'll be honest and say that I don't know how effective a solution a GSA is. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't. But you aren't criticizing the solution. You are instead criticizing the problem. Because these students were born gay, they are now fair game for bullying, and any attempts they make to improve their lives must be evidence of an evil conspiracy.

Now, you might raise a bunch of arguments here, such as claiming that being gay is a choice, or that being gay is a sin. First, most scientists do not believe that being gay is a choice. The evidence is pretty clear about it. Besides, what possible advantages does it bring? "Gee, I'd like to be attracted to the same gender as me, so that I can have the same amount of sexual satisfaction as a straight person, but oodles more scorn and derision and bullying from people who see me as a freak! Sounds like a good idea!"

As for it being a sin, please note that the Old Testament explicitly condemns homosexuality only in Leviticus, and the Gospels say nothing about homosexuality. Leviticus is a surprising book to read. It starts out with a detailed description of how to sacrifice animals. Then it talks about which things are unclean and how you are a guilty sinner if you touched an unclean thing, even if you didn't know you had. Also it prohibits the eating of lobster, clams, and other sea creatures that don't have scales, because those are abominations. There are whole lists of creatures that you can and can't eat. Leviticus also prescribes that all men must be circumcised. It goes on and on. My point is that almost all the rules of Leviticus are ignored in modern Christianity. Why does the ban against homosexuality get special treatment? Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. But he did command his followers to love their neighbours.

That boy that committed suicide recently, because homophobic teenagers bullied him? His name was Jamie Hubley. He was a boy, learning about the world and growing up to be a man. And he's dead now, because homophobes made his life unbearable. How can we let something like this happen? How can we pretend that this boy "chose" to be tormented to death? He was a boy, and a human being, and he deserved better from the world and from his school. And your campaign strove to undo any advances this child needed.

That attitude sickens me to no end. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, since you've aligned yourself with the same party whose Federal brothers and sisters unanimously voted against officially legalizing gay marriage, despite it being clearly required by the Charter of rights and freedoms. It was a mere technicality, yet the entire cohort of elected Conservatives stood up to declare themselves homophobic. It should come as no surprise that you too have the same views as they. But your letter, your anti-gay beliefs are why you, and your party, lost the provincial election: the people of Toronto stood up and denounced this bigotry.

I am sending this letter to you directly from my personal email, and also cross-posting it to my blog. If you reply, I will post your reply as well, so that you can get your word in.

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