Ménage à trois: Peter Knegt comes to Drawn & Quarterly to discuss his book on queer rights
par: Mark Ambrose Harris
Fernwood Publishing has just released a new book in their About Canada series, entitled Queer Rights, by author Peter Knegt. It’s very much an introductory guide to queer life in Canada and the history of how various communities arose in cities across the country. It’s a concise look at the different issues that queer people faced, and continue to grapple with in this land. The book gets its Montreal launch on Monday, September 26 at Draw & Quarterly, where Knegt will speak about his work.
As a researcher and writer, the author is very upfront, both in the book and in interview, about the privilege that comes with his identity. Knegt says: “I’m a twentysomething, white middle-class male. And I’m well aware I’m one of-if not the most privileged types of queer people out there. Intersecting identities of gender, race and class play serious, serious roles in whether or not a queer person can enjoy the many ‘gains’ this country had made with respect to rights for queer people. I wanted that to be clear.”
Some of the most telling aspects of the book involve numbers. For instance, while Quebec made amendments to its Human Rights Legislation to include sexual orientation in 1977, other provinces followed suite very slowly, with Ontario doing the same in 1986. Alberta was the last province to make this change in 1998. According to the 2005 Canadian census, though there are over forty-five thousand same-sex couples in the country, only seven thousand are married.
Perhaps this indicates that while gay marriage is a hot topic for the media, a vast majority of queers are not interested in matrimony being the watershed of queer rights. Did you know that it’s illegal to have anal sex when there are more than two parties involved? Furthermore, if the sex takes place anywhere but in private, it’s punishable with a $10,000 fine or six months in prison. Yes, you read that right – gay threesomes are the enemy of the state.
This is perhaps the most important lesson in Knegt’s book: though attitudes about same-sex partnerships may have changed, societal values concerning sexuality are still conservative or downright homophobic. After all, it’s ridiculous that there are still laws attempting to govern and control which appendages go into which orifices. Living in Quebec, where we enjoy a good ménage à trois, we forget that in the rest of this vast land, pernicious fire-and-brimstone beliefs about sex are brewing.
Canada is often heralded as a queer utopia, as though we’re all wearing pink flowers in our hair and frolicking in an eternal Technicolor fountain. While LGBTQ Canadians do enjoy a healthy dose of liberty in this country, two things often go unnoticed: first, all of the fighting that brought us to the freedoms we have now, and second, the horrible, conservative laws that are still in dire need of change.