The Globe ran a full-page feature before Pride Day (2011.07.02) entitled “The Many Faces of Pride,” bylined Chantaie Allick. Six photographs of nonwhite immigrants to Canada – from Namibia, the Philippines, Uganda, Jamaica, Venezuela, and one other – were accompanied by quick Q&A.

The entry for Mezart Daulp (sic), a Uyghur from Xinjiang who spent his childhood in Japan, includes this:

[W]e’re Muslim. My dad once told me that if his son were gay he’d kill that son. I was 12 or 11. […]

I thought when I came here, it would be a gay utopia. Then I came and I saw things didn’t change much. I still face homophobia and now I face more racism in the gay community and there are so many issues still. So it’s interesting how I’m still in a similar position to when I was in Japan, even though I can be more open as a gay. I still face lots of challenges. So it’s still like finding my safe place, that’s the journey that I haven’t finished yet.

This struck me as absolutely insane. But let’s start with the Globe’s errors: Mezart Daulp’s name is actually Mezart Daulet, an error still uncorrected in all the online variants of the story (like AOL’s). (Allick didn’t respond to an E-mail asking how such a serious and basic error happened.) I could also complain that Daulet was described as “Uigur,” possibly the least acceptable variant spelling.

At any rate, Daulet, a Muslim minority in his country whose home province is continually besieged by the Chinese government, attempts to make the case that Toronto is really no better than Japan for gays. Notoriously tribalist Japan, rife with corruption and not really a democracy as we would recognize it, is the kind of place where, if you are racially incorrect, you are a literal and figurative second-class citizen. (Most people think of Koreans as examples of that phenomenon, but what about the thousands of Indians in Kobe?)

Japan cannot be bothered coming up with kanji for the name of its largest indigenous group, the Ainu, which name it writes the way it writes many “foreign” words, in katakana (アイヌ).

Japan is a place where mixed-race people, especially children, are dismissed as “hafu” (“half”; ハーフ) at 50 paces. Young Japanese who spend time in the West complain bitterly about all the gaijin. There is no employment protection or really any protection for gays and lesbians in Japan, and if you’re the kind of person who hitches the gay-rights wagon to a feminist horse, please take a look at the position of women in Japanese society, business, and government.

There is barely any aboveground gay culture in Japan, whose national affinity for shame makes such a thing broadly unthinkable. I have second-hand knowledge of guys who are out and don’t have much of a problem with it, except of course for the career suicide they face when it becomes obvious they’re never going to marry and settle down.

Really: Need I go on?

Meanwhile, in Toronto and Ontario and Canada your rights are protected. Your city councillor might be a lesbian, or in previous years could have been one of several gay males (at least two). An out gay former provincial cabinet minister ran for mayor and almost won. It was not really controversial that he was and is married to another man. (Nor is it controversial they later adopted a child.) We have what Americans insist on calling “gay marriage” here. We have a raft of aboveground gay and lesbian services, most of them government-funded.

It is a complete joke that being gay here could be remotely comparable to being gay in Japan. And how the hell could Daulet regularly experience homophobia (he didn’t say “regularly,” but that is the implication) when he works for one of those aboveground government-funded gay service groups, Asian Community AIDS Prevention? Isn’t that the most comfortable possible ghetto for an Asian gay male? (Do others at the office secretly think a Sino-Japanese Turkic Uyghur Muslim is a bit too quirky to be “Asian”?)

But Daulet’s approach is typical of Toronto’s gay vizmins, who insist up and down they are marginalized and discriminated against even though they actually are powerbrokers in elite gay society here. There is no city without homophobia and racism, no matter how scattered, and neither of those are to be tolerated. We can agree on that. And I often write about systemic or structural issues, which are quite real. But something else we need to agree upon is that walking into any situation feeling inferior and unequal means people will treat you that way. Is that what Daulet is doing?

This is, at root, the Casablanca scenario: “You despise me, don’t you?” “If I gave you any thought, I probably would.” Walk into an environment assuming you’re despised and whaddya know, you will be.

And why isn’t Daulet complaining about homophobia within Islam?

I contacted Daulet on the Facebook and asked him to back up the claims in the Globe interview. He pretty much didn’t. He also didn’t answer my question about which of the three names listed there was his surname or how to write it in Uyghur.

First, the information on the interview was very limited and some part of the interview were cut.

Second, Japan is a very xenophobic country, but you are making a very general statement of Japan here, and I cannot 100% agree with it. Gay culture may not be as recognized as Toronto, but in Tokyo, there has been a big change in even the past three years.

Third, I have faced homophobia and racism in Toronto, and I have still face it on a daily basis more so on racism.

In the interview, what I wanted to express was simple:

  1. I have faced homophobia in Japan, with my family, friends, and school. I was involved in youth groups to fight for queer rights and raising awareness of the queer community in Japan.

  2. When I came to Toronto, I was expecting a city that is a gay utopia. By participating in many Pride activities in Toronto, I felt the focus was more on parties, [not] activism.

  3. I was surprised that homophobia still exists in Toronto, and as a newcomer youth, I have faced racism in the community. It made me realize that I still need to “fight” to create a safe space in the community for myself.

…despite earning wages in exactly such a safe space.

Mezart Daulet, I call bullshit. Start acting like a free man and people will treat you that way. The same goes for other Toronto gay vizmins who, it must be said, play the victim card. To all of those, I would note that systemic oppression is still at work and you will still encounter haters, but the rest of the problem is you.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.07.12 15:44. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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