Pillow Talk: Heterosexuals For Same-Sex Equality

“What would you think if I sang out of tune/
Would you stand up and walk out on me?”

Whatever tune you might be singing, whatever instrument you might be playing, friends don’t walk out on friends. And Heterosexuals For Same-Sex Equality want the queer community to know that they right there to help out. Whether it be protesting, advocacy initiatives or mourning, HSSE bring their mission of tolerance and understanding to the public at large to further the cause of same-sex equality.

Sexlife Canada chatted with Derek Forgie, Chair of the HSSE Steering Committee about the various activities the group undertakes and what they continue to do in this struggle.

SLC: How did HSSE start up?
DF: In 2003, before same-sex marriage became law in Canada I was watching a certain Christian television show with a certain address in the title. You know the one. There was much speculation about all the terrible things that would happen to Canada should same-sex marriage pass. Much of it was almost laughable (ie. drug use skyrocketing) but the one that stuck out for me was when one of the panelists expressed that he felt sorrow for all the ‘traditional’ marriages that would depreciate in value. I took that one personally. It implied to me that I would love my wife less if gay people can get married. It inspired me to call upon my smartest and most politically active friends to form a committee that would represent all the people who felt the same way my wife and I did.
Cut to July 2007, we launch at the Panasonic Theatre with a website, mission statement, prime directives, steering committee, business cards, ‘Straight Not Narrow’ t-shirts and a banner to wave in the Pride Parade.

SLC: What sort of activities does your group do to support the queer community?
DF: Our highest priority right now is ‘Equality Check.’ It’s a presentation that we conduct predominantly at high schools that debunks common myths and misconceptions about homosexuality. When you do away with the stigma and clarify that being gay is as ‘weird’ as being left-handed, you create a safer and most accepting climate for LGBT students. We’re very proud of this presentation and we’ve seen instant positive results from all the high schools we’ve gone to. Recently we were in North Bay. Upon our conclusion, the teacher vowed to create a GSA immediately. There was another school that had a principal that nixed the idea of a GSA in the school. After HSSE’s Equality Check, he changed his tune. They now have one that is thriving. In addition, we have an ongoing letter-writing campaign. Public figures and/or companies that conduct themselves admirably in regards to same-sex issues get a pat on the back from us and our supporters. A few past recipients include: Virgin Mobile, TD Bank, Sarah Silverman, Cindy McCain, Sean Avery, Will Philips, NY Senator Diane Sovino and Anne Hathaway. Conversely, we also express our discontent when somebody acts in a derogatory fashion. Last week for example, we sent a letter to Mr. Tracy Morgan. We’ve also been to our share of demonstrations and rallies. We were in full force when the Halton Catholic School Board was making their decision on GSA policy. We had our banner waving when Fred Phelps threatened to send some representatives from the Westboro Baptist Church to the Cameron House. We also paid our respects at the vigil for Christopher Skinner.

SLC: Are there any queer causes your group won't take up?
DF: Nothing comes to mind. Due to the fact that our supporters and fundraisers are the only thing that supports us financially, we can’t take on nearly as much as we would like. Right now we’re fairly streamlined simply due to our financial constraints. However, as any gay-rights advocate knows, this fight changes all the time. Since 2003 it’s taken many a twist and turn, sometimes spontaneous ground-swell initiatives grab our attention.

SLC: What feedback have you received from the queer community? Any negative response?
DF: The only negative response we ever get from the gay community lasts for a few seconds when people initially mistake us for an anti-gay-rights group. The word ‘heterosexual’ is not a word you see very often during the Pride Community fair. Once they take a moment and see what we really are, they are overjoyed. The Queer community has supplied us with megawatts of support.

SLC: What do you feel is the #1 issue your group can most help with?
DF: I think the #1 place we help is in the hostile and unforgiving environment of high school. We have seen LGBT students be protected with ground troops who feel empowered with our words to combat homophobia on their own. When there’s no assembly to keep people in check and no teacher in the hallway, students need verbal tools at a moment’s notice. Understandably, often it’s not the bullied student that feels strong or brave enough to face their enemies, it’s their allies that have to chime in. We keep hearing stories about friends sticking up for bullied friends with our words. I can’t even begin to tell you how rewarding that feels.

SLC: What upcoming initiatives have you got planned?
DF: This year marks our 5th appearance in Toronto Pride. We’re encouraging straight allies to march with us to show your support for same-sex equality. If you want to join us you can email Livaline@hsse.ca. If you want to see us having fun in years previous, click here: HSSE in the Pride Parade. The best way to keep up to speed on our various fundraising initiatives is to join our Facebook group. You can also join us on twitter.

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…”

March with HSSE in the Toronto Pride parade on Sunday June 3 at 1pm. Email for details.