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London, Ontario – I’m ashamed of you

September 23, 2011

Today I am a sad Londoner. My first post back from my vacation was supposed to be full of happy “I had a great canoe trip,” type burbles. Instead, I’ve returned to my current home in London, Ontario, to find that two of my loves, hockey and farmer’s markets, have been dirtied by individuals in this backward-looking city.

Yesterday I returned from the land of no cell phone to an article stating that a local farmer’s market which I have frequented in the past, has requested that a vendor not return until ‘those people’ have been dealt with. ‘Those people’ being her transgendered employees. Apparently having transgendered folk as service personnel is against the ‘family & friendly’ atmosphere encouraged by Trail’s End Farmer’s Market. But this action is not discriminatory, according to the owner.

Having meandered through the many stalls and enjoyed the produce offered at Trail’s End, this saddened me on a day when I was happily enjoying the memories of a canoe trip with a best buddy.  Both having friends who are members of the LGBT community, we were hurt to realize the depths of discrimination that still exist in London. Today, the feelings of hurt and shame only increased when I heard about an act of racism that tainted our city last night.

An NHL pre-season game between the local favourite Detroit Red Wings and rival Philadelphia Flyers was hosted at our premier venue, the John Labatt Center (JLC). The headlines this morning had nothing to do with the actual outcome of the game or the performances of the players. Today’s headlines read: “Banana Thrown at Flyer’s Simmonds” – Sportsnet, “An Ugly Incident” – TSN, “Former King Wayne Simmonds is target of racist gesture” – Los Angeles Times, and “Ontario fan throws banana at Wayne Simmonds in shameful racist display” – NBC Sports.  Not the kind of thing you want to see written about anywhere, but referring to your home city? Not ever.

I’ve been to the JLC many times to attend pre-season NHL matches, innumerable OHL games and various other events. I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to skate on the ice myself last winter.  The JLC has been the site of many happy memories, but it has also been host to some ugly incidents.

Last fall, my girlfriend treated me to seats right behind the glass at a Knights game. I was ecstatic although, because we were directly behind the visitors bench, it was actually difficult to see what was happening right in front of us.  The game was won by the Knights in a shoot-out, but what made that night memorable was the fact that the ‘family’ group that was behind us, spouted racist and discriminatory comments throughout the entire game. It ruined that match for me. In addition to homophobic comments directed towards ourselves, to hear youngsters between the ages of 16-20 referred to as ‘Pakkies’ and ‘fags’ etc., turned my stomach.  To know that these were Knights’ ‘fans’ made it all the worse, because, for the most part, they were referring to our team.

Over the years, progress has been made with respect to discrimination in its many forms. The last couple of days has shown the world exactly how far we have yet to go. And it starts right in your own backyard.

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